Srikanth goes down fighting against Dan

OLYMPICS-RIO-BADMINTON-M-SINGLES Lin Dan of China celebrates taking the first point in the third set of his match against Kidambi Srikanth of India in the men's singles quarterfinals | REUTERS

Kidambi Srikanth’s run at the Olympics in the men’s badminton singles came to an end after losing 6-21 21-11 18-21 in the quarterfinals, to two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan. The world number three defeated Srikanth in a closely-fought match that lasted a little over an hour.

Although the 23-year-old Indian has famously defeated the Chinese in the China Open final in 2014, Dan proved to be too hot to handle this time around.

Dan took the first set in 16 minutes, thriving on Srikanth’s errors. The Indian, perhaps overawed by the occasion, erred at the net and repeatedly hit wide. The Chinese ace took full advantage of it to grab the first set without breaking a sweat.

But Srikanth put up a stronger fight in the second set, as age began to show in Dan’s play. The soft-spoken Indian grabbed the second set after a disappointing start as coach Gopichand and Indian supporters in the stands egged him on. Playing more aggressively, Srikanth raced to a 6-2 lead and went into the break leading 11-5. He continued with the long ralllies and soon wrapped up the second set 21-11.

The third set turned out to be a nail-biting affair, with both players bringing in their A-game to the court. While Dan tried to trick Srikanth with his drop shots, the Indian tried his best to dictate the pace of the game with rallies and smashes. It seemed to be working for him, with Srikanth going into the break leading 11-8.

Dan, who had won three titles in 2016, including the All-England Championships, however, managed to claw back to level the scores at 14-14, and slowly but surely built up the lead over the Indian, clinching the match with a smash down the middle.

Srikanth came into the game with much expectations after he beat Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark 21-19, 21-19 in a closely-fought round of 16 clash. The Dane had no answer to the world number 11, whose flurry of smashes sealed the match in his favour, but it turned out to be another case of so-near-yet-so-far for India in the quarterfinals.

With Saina Nehwal sensationally crashing out in the group stage, along with the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa, the onus was on P.V. Sindhu and Srikanth to make up for the damage done. Earlier in the day, Sindhu beat Chinese world number 2 Wang Yihan in straight sets to reach the semifinals of the women’s singles competition.

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