Iskandar Zulkarnain beats Kidambi Srikanth to enter India Open quarters

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Iskandar Zulkarnain is slowly taking his game to the next level. (photo: AP)
Iskandar Zulkarnain is slowly taking his game to the next level. (photo: AP)

New Delhi: Malaysia’s unseeded Iskandar Zulkarnain pulled off a huge upset at India Open on Thursday by overpowering No. 2 seed and home favorite Kidambi Srikanth of India 21-19, 21-17 in 43 minutes.

Zulkarnain who has been plagued by injury since last year, was using his strong defenses to ward off Srikanth’s powerful smashes in both sets. Zulkarnain relied on his defence to prolong the rallies and to wear out Srikanth in straight game. The World No. 85 Malaysian player has levelled his career meeting record with the World No. 3 Indian to 2-2 after Thursday’s victory.

“I had a slipped disc back injury last year, and I am slowing making a comeback. This is my biggest win so far this year,” said Zulkarnain.

“I know Srikanth has strong smashes and great net play, I strengthen my defence and tried to avoid mistakes,” added Zulkarnain.

On the other hand, Srikanth was surprised by Zulkarnain’s ability to return his smashes.

“He played very well and was able to return the shuttlecocks from many crazy and unimaginable positions,” said Srikanth.

Zulkarnain’s victory will definitely strengthen his spot in the Malaysian men’s team for the upcoming Asia Team Badminton Championship from 6-11 February in Alor Setar, Malaysia, which is also the qualifying round of the Thomas and Uber Cup.

Zulkarnain will meet another Indian shuttler, Sameer Verma, after Indian defeated Tommy Sugiarto of India 21-18, 19-21, 21-17 in the second round.

In mixed doubles, Malaysia’s No. 4 seeds Goh Soon Huat/Shevon Jemie Lai have outlasted Shivam Sharma/Poorvisha S. Ram of India 21-10, 21-16 and will take on No. 6 seeds He Jiting/Du Yue next.

Nevertheless, another Malaysian pair, third seeded Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing, couldn’t finish the job when there were leading 21-20 in the decider to go down 16-21, 21-15 and 21-23 to unseeded Indian pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Ashwini Ponnappa.

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