Prime Minister Narendra Modi and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, among others, lavished praise on Kidami Srikanth for claiming the Australian Open title with a stunning win over reigning Olympic and world champion Chen Long.
Ranked World No 11, Srikanth's second straight title victory in a week after the Indonesian Open Super Series Premier last Sunday, sets him take on bigger names in the near future. He became the second Indian to win Australian Open Series after Saina Nehwal, and the first Indian male to win this championship.
Beating Chen Long in a tournament final propels Kidambi Srikanth into badminton's stratosphere. Also, this was his third final in a Super Series.
Chen Long is a former Olympic champion, having clinched gold in badminton in the Rio Olympics. The see-saw battle continued for a while before Srikanth broke away to lead 6-3, dominating the rallies with his accurately, rather awkwardly, placed shots, which Long found hard to return.
Earlier, in a match between two friends, it was Praneeth who took early lead, moving to a 4-1 advantage and despite Srikanth grabbing a slender 11-10 lead at the break, the Thailand Open champion once again moved to a 16-13 lead. Chen made a couple of uncharacteristic errors but Srikanth's smash was in good working order as he led 17-15.
Srikanth defeated his opponent 22-20, 21-16. In 2014, Srikanth beat Chinese badminton legend Lin Dan to seal his maiden China Open crown.
"I was not thinking of winning or losing".
The 24-year-old badminton champion of India started the next game with a lead of 6-2, taking it to 11-9 before the short break.
Srikanth then reeled off five straight points to turn the tables and moved to a 20-17 lead. "Going into the final against Chen Long, I wasn't under much pressure and the plan was not to give him easy points".
"I said yesterday that I wanted to show that women's singles in Japan is at a high level so in this match, when Akane Yamaguchi really fought in the final game, we showed that".
Srikanth and Shi engaged in long rallies with both the shuttlers staying away from the net early on.