India’s Kidambi Srikanth got third-time lucky in the 2016 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold tournament, which concluded at Lucknow’s Babu Banarasi Das Indoor stadium on Sunday January 31, 2016. Srikanth, who has slipped in BWF world rankings to 9th spot now; defeated China’s Huang Yuxiang in the final of the US $120,000 badminton event. The women’s final was won by Korea’s Sung Ji-Hyun, who defeated Japan’s Sayaka Sato. No Indian women could feature in the final this year. Defending champion Saina Nehwal had withdrawn from the tournament before the start and PV Sindhu fell in the second round.
Kidambi Srikanth continued with his good form after the 2016 Premier Badminton League in which he had represented Bengaluru TopGuns. Though his team couldn’t reach the semifinals of PBL, Srikanth was rated as the Most Valuable Player for the TopGuns. In the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold tournament, Srikanth had also reached the finals in 2014 and 2015 but failed to cross the last hurdle on both occasions. The Indian changed that in his third final appearance on Sunday by scoring a hard-fought 21-13, 14-21, 21-14 victory over Huang Yuxiang of China. Earlier on Saturday, Srikanth reached his third final by defeating Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana 21-14, 21-7. In the final against Huang, Srikanth quickly raced to a big lead before winning the first game at 21-13. But the Chinese staged a comeback in the second game despite trailing 7-11 during the break. Suddenly Srikanth found the going tough as Huang reeled off 5 straight points to lead 12-11. Thereafter, the Indian was allowed only three more points as Huang forced the decider by winning the second game 21-14. The Chinese continued with his second game momentum and breezed past Srikanth to lead 8-4. Srikanth shifted gears at this juncture and started winning points. He took the next five to lead 9-8. However, Huang was not done yet. He changed the lead to 13-12 in his favor by taking the next five points. Once again, Srikanth brought the reversal with a renewed rhythm and scored 6 straight points for an 18-13 lead. The Chinese scored just one more point after that as Srikanth settled the match in his favor with a 21-14 victory in the final game.
In women’s draw, the lone Indian challenge had faded away earlier with PV Sindhu losing a hard-fought second round match to Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol 21-18, 24-26, 17-21. Last year’s champion Saina Nehwal had withdrawn earlier and no other Indian remained in the field. The women’s singles final was contested between Korea’s Sung Ji-Hyun and Japan’s Sayaka Sato. After the Japanese took the first game 21-12, the Korean came back strongly in the next two to eke out a deserved 12-21, 21-18, 21-18 victory in 85 minutes. Sung Ji-Hyun thus emerged as the 2016 women’s singles champion in the Syed Modi tournament.
Earlier in the men’s doubles final, the Indian team of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar won the first game and held two match points in the second against Malaysia’s Goh V Shem and Wee Kiong Tan. Just when an Indian victory looked imminent, Goh/Wee tilted the balance in their favor by forcing the decider and ultimately taking the championship by beating the Indians 14-21, 24-22, 21-8. Goh and Wee are the reigning Commonwealth Game gold medalist and with their victory, they have stretched their head-to-head record against the Indians to 3-0. In the closely contested mixed doubles final, Indonesian second seeds Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto defeated Thailand’s Puavaranukroh Dechapol and Sapsiree Taerattanachai 23-25, 21-9, 21-16. Women’s doubles title at Lucknow was won by the Korean pair of Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan, who literally outplayed Netherlands’ Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek 21-15, 21-13.