Kidambi Srikanth’s dreams of winning a medal for India at the World Championship came crashing after he went down fighting in straight games to World No. 1 Son Wan Ho of Korea in men’s single competition here on Friday.
Srikanth had emerged as India’s best bet at the tournament after he clinched back-to-back titles at Indonesia and Australia and a final finish at the Singapore Open.
Srikanth had come into the match with twin victories over Son Wan in June at the Indonesia Super Series Premier and Australia Super Series but it counted for little as the Korean dished out a near-perfect game to outclass the Indian 21-14 21-18 in a 49-minute clash.
Srikanth made a nervy start to the quarterfinals, allowing Son Wan to open up a 6-1 lead early on but the Indian slowly got his bearing as he made it 5-6. His movement improved and his trade mark smashes helped him to make it 8-8.
However, Son Wan managed to move ahead and a return from Srikanth going to net helped the Korean to have the 11-8 advantage at the first break.
The duo looked to outwit each other by changing the angles and pace of their strokes during the rallies. Srikanth reduced the margin to 12-13 but the Korean once again managed to move up to a 15-12 lead with a deceptive back hand return.
Srikanth’s errors helped Son Wan to move to 19-13. The Korean grabbed six game point opportunity and sealed it when the Indian hit the net twice.
After the change of sides, Srikanth struggled to get his length right and his returns missed the baseline twice. The Indian even lost his left shoe during one of the rallies.
Srikanth struggle with his precision and placement of strokes and it helped Son Wan to eventually enter the breather with a handsome seven-point advantage.
After the break, Srikanth played a good rally with patience and it helped him to win the point but he seemed to go back to his power game, which backfired as the Korean kept moving ahead to 13-5.
Srikanth changed gears then and strengthened his defence to reel off seven straight points, making it 12-16 but Son Wan managed to break the streak with a return that found the Indian short at the forecourt.
The Indian missed the line again and also hit the net to allow Son Wan move to 19-14 advantage.
The Korean misjudged a shuttler to gift a point to Srikanth, who replied with a cross court smash to reduce the deficit to 17-19. Another smash from Srikanth and it was 18- 19.
However, Son Wan grabbed the match point when Srikanth rushed into a shot and hit the net. The Indian once again found the net to hand over the match to the Korean and see his 13-match winning streak lay in tatters.