Kidambi Srikanth’s Olympic journey ends

Srikanth is out of the BWF’s Tokyo qualification race, but the ex-World No. 1 has only himself to blame.
In 2021, Kidambi Srikanth was playing some of the most delectable badminton he’d seen in a long time. It’s a shame that players are judged on black-and-white criteria like winning matches (where his dreadful outings lasted until March and he lingered at No. 20 in the Race to Tokyo rankings) rather than how engaging their matches are.

Srikanth’s hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics were dashed when the Badminton World Federation declared the qualification race closed on Friday.

While Saina Nehwal’s non-qualification remains the most disappointing in badminton, and Ashwini Ponnappa-Sikki Reddy had a slim chance, Srikanth’s absence at Tokyo will be difficult to justify given the player’s current form.
Srikanth has been training with a spring in his step and plenty of enthusiasm over the last few months and looking sharp, according to those at the national camp in Hyderabad. Even the 28-year-old will admit that he waited too long after major tournaments in India, Malaysia, and Singapore were cancelled.

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As things stand, the BWF has no Olympic ranking cut-off (such as the Top 100), so Emre Lale of Turkey, who is 94th on the Race to Tokyo list, is eligible. And, because the Olympics is all about participation, even if there are pull-outs, those called up will almost certainly ensure that more countries send at least one shuttler to the men’s singles event. While a title victory in Singapore could have pushed Srikanth closer to the Top 16 in the qualification cycle, the former World No. 1 will rue missed opportunities and poor decisions in recent seasons.


Srikanth is known for his slow starts, and his leisurely pace in gaining momentum over the course of a week dragged him back when half a dozen events were cancelled. However, out of the 70 matches Srikanth has played since 2019, 26 have gone to three games because he couldn’t finish fast enough to either outlast his opponent or save energy for the next day’s match.

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He wasted energy by expending it unnecessarily, and he lacked the strength and endurance to complete the task in five days.

Shot selection went awry in 12 (more than a third) of his 30 losses since 2019, resulting in a 19-19 or extra-points scenario in 12 (more than a third) of those defeats. In these situations, mental toughness stems from the intuitive belief that there’s enough gas in the tank to fight it out physically, and Srikanth wasn’t quite trusting himself as he failed to close out match after match.
The Hong Kong Open, which will take place in November 2019, is a good example. Srikanth took a long time to find his stride in the quarterfinals, receiving walkovers from Kento Momota and then Chen Long. He eventually lost 21-9, 25-23 to local Lee Cheuk Yiu. Srikanth wrested momentum from him in the second, hit a purple patch in the middle of the match, and then disintegrated from game point in a 5-minute meltdown, the Hong Kong rookie couldn’t believe his luck.

Srikanth would reach sublime peaks of on-court movement and point construction at the World Tour Finals – which were not part of qualification – but would lose in the third round to Anders Antonsen (21-18), Tzu Wei Wang (21-19), and NG Ka Long Angus (21-19). The difference this time, and what suggested better form, was that he would easily win the first two games. The net charge, which consists of a smash followed by a quick net kill, was also back. When trying to lock the match, however, it would go missing. Since his confidence had been questioned, it would be simplistic to call it a mental freeze, but this was a straight physical wobble, as evidenced by the dreadful manner in which the final points were played out.

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