Grand Prix Gold Kidambi SrikanthIt is a huge credit for India’s Kidambi Srikanth that he has been recognized by BWF as no. 4 in the world. The Indian has shown continuous improvement in his game over the year and to prove that his China Open triumph was not a mere fluke, he has now won the $120,000 Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold at Basel on Sunday. The Swiss Open tournament organizers must have been highly satisfied that the tournament top seed has justified the faith reposed in him before the event could get underway. In the final played on Sunday, Srikanth defeated the reigning champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in three games. Srikanth thus became the first ever male badminton player from India to win the tournament in its 25th edition. Except the men’s singles, China had the dominating presence as Basel as they won all the remaining titles. While Yu Sun won the women’s singles title; Kai Lu/Yaqiong Huang won the mixed doubles; Yixin Bao/ Yuanting Tang won the women’s doubles and Cai Yun/Lu Kai won the men’s doubles.

Top seed Srikanth, who had defeated compatriot Ajay Jayaram in the semifinals, continued his good run and outlasted the reigning champion and second seed Axelsen 21-15, 12-21, 21-14 to clinch his third international title in less than two years. Srikanth had a disappointing appearance at the All-England championship in Birmingham last week, where he lost in the very first round but he managed to stage a remarkable comeback in Swiss Open in St Jakobshalle. Interestingly, India’s super star shuttler, Saina Nehwal didn’t compete in the Swiss Open much to the disappointment of a large community of Indian fans. Over the years, these fans have been accustomed to making Saina cut her birthday cake every year at St Jakobshalle. Saina has won the Swiss Open in 2011 and 2012 but she and other Indian women badminton players gave the Swiss Open a miss this year.

What is remarkable about Srikanth’s rapid rise in recent times is a fact about his contracting a brain fever in July, 2014 that almost took his life. But once he recovered, he has been full of determination that translated into a winning run of unprecedented kind. In the China Open late last year Srikanth caused a stunning upset in beating super badminton hero Lin Dan on his home turf. It was a feat badminton players dream but few could realize those ambitions. In 2014, he reached the semifinals at the Swiss and Dubai Open and the final of Indian Grand Prix Gold. In Swiss Open 2015 too, Srikanth looked circumspect at times but he worked hard and produced some unbelievable shots, when they mattered most. Some of the notable shots that he played against Axelsen were; backhand taps close to the nets like slaps on the opponent’s face; backhand tosses from the back of court and a few shots from the repertoire of a Lin Dan or a Lee Chong Wei. In the final, Srikanth took the first game 21-15 without breaking sweat but Axelsen came back strongly in the second game and forced Srikanth into making several errors at net shots. The defending champion looked like retaining his title yet again as he won the second game comfortably 21-12. But the determined Indian regained his touch in the decider and made life difficult for the Dane. Srikanth surprised Axelsen by scintillating smashes that came with a lot of deception. In one instance, Axelsen expected a crosscourt smash but Srikanth foxed him with a straight one. And again, when Axelsen thought Srikanth would play a backcourt shot, the Indian delivered a forecourt drop. As the two players had a change of court at 11-10, Srikanth assumed control in the third game. His deceptive shots made Axelsen tentative at times and the Dane lost his rhythm. Afterwards, Axelsen yielded easy points to the Indian. After the cross-over, Srikanth allowed only four points to the Dane and won his first title in Europe at 21-15, 12-21, 21-14.

In the women’s singles China’s Yu Sun dictated terms to her opponent from Thailand, Busanan Ongbumrungpan. The Thai woman had her difficulties in freeing herself from pressure and that allowed the Chinese woman to dominate the match and take the title with a 21-16, 21-12 victory. In the all-Chinese mixed doubles final, Yaqiong Huang and Kai Lu defeated compatriots Cheng Liu and Yixin Bao 17-21, 22-20, 21-13. In the women’s doubles, the Chinese pair of Yixin Bao/ Tang Yuanting defeated Japan’s Ayane Kurihara/Naru Shinoya 21-6, 17-21, 21-17 and in the men’s doubles, Cai Yun/Lu Kai beat Malaysia’s Shem Goh/Wei Kiong Tan 21-19, 14-21, 21-17.