By Suhrid Barua
History beckoned Indian badminton as Kidambi Srikanth became the third Indian men’s singles shuttler to break into the top-5 in world rankings after the illustrious duo of Prakash Padukone (reached number one) and Pullea Gopichand (reached number four).
The 21-year-old Guntur boy scaled new heights in 2014, winning the China Open Superseries Premier beating Lin Dan in the final. He also made it to the final of the India Open Grand Prix Gold and the semi-finals in Hong Kong and the SuperSeries Finals in Dubai, which greatly shaped up his ranking leap.
Srikanth, who trains at the Hyderabad-based Gopichand Badminton Academy, spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
How does it feel breaking into the top-5 in the world rankings?
It feels great to have reached the top-5. 2014 has been a good one for me as I made rapid strides in my games. I had some really fine results this year, which is going to only increase my confidence going into 2015.
You have become the only third Indian men’s singles player to surge into the top-5 of world rankings. You must be elated to be in the same league as big names like Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand.
It is indeed satisfying to know that I have managed to break into the top-5 – something only Prakash Sir and Gopichand Sir had attained earlier. This ranking leap will boost my morale and spur me on for bigger things in 2015.
How challenging it will be staying in the top-5?
Of course, it won’t be easy. You work hard to climb up in the rankings but to stay in the top-5 I really need to up my consistency. I hope I can live up to the challenges that lie ahead of me in 2015.
You started 2014 with a ranking of 47 and soon broke into the top-20 and now you are now perched at number 4. What were your plans at the start of the year?
I think I have improved my game and have also become richer with all the international exposure I had over the past twelve months or so. I have become more matured game-wise although there is plenty of room for improvement.
Parupalli Kashyap has been the country’s top-ranked men’s singles player for a long time. You must be pleased to have surpassed him.
Kashyap has doing so well for India. He has been in the top 15 to 20 for five to six years, which speaks volumes about his consistency. There is always many things to learn from him and surpassing him in rankings was satisfying.
You had a stellar run at the China Open Superseries Premier where you got the better of five-time champion Lin Dan in the final. Your thoughts?
Beating Lin Dan was special as he is a class act. That title triumph really set me up for the tourneys in Hong Kong and Dubai where I reached the semifinals. I have also beaten Jan O Jorgensen and Tommy Sugiarto this year and my confidence is really high beating these guys, hopefully I can maintain the same tempo in 2015.
A slew of Indian shuttlers (seven of them) are ranked among the top-50 – do you feel that it really bodes well for Indian badminton?
Absolutely… I don’t think there is any other nation that has so many players in the top-50. I’m sure Indian badminton is going to places in future as well.
What are the things you do to unwind when you are not playing badminton?
Well, my training and tourneys keep me busy for most part, but I do like to meet and chat with my friends and family members.