Huelva (Spain), Dec 19 Former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth scripted history by becoming the first Indian male shuttler to claim a silver medal in the World Badminton Championships, losing to Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew in the men’s singles final, here on Sunday.
The 28-year old Srikanth lost 15-21, 20-22 to his opponent Loh in a 43-minute summit clash to settle for a silver.
Previously, legendary Prakash Padukone (bronze in 1983) and B Sai Praneeth (bronze in 2019) were the medal winners in men’s singles while the 20-year-old Lakshya Sen joined the elusive list on Saturday after losing to Srikanth in a nail-biting semi-final clash.
The maiden silver also put Srikanth alongside PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Sindhu had won the coveted gold in 2019, two silver and two bronze, while Saina bagged the silver at the 2015 Jakarta and a bronze at 2017 Glasgow.
Against Loh Kean Yew, world No 14 Kidambi started strongly, courtesy of his superior front-court game. The Indian stuck to his drop shots that forced the Singaporean to the net and then unleashed big smashes, racing to an 11-7 lead.
However, the 22nd-ranked Yew turned his fortunes around after the break with his quick pace and correctly anticipating Kidambi’s returns.
The Singapore player tactfully set up point after point, winning 10 of the last 12 and raced to a 17-13 advantage. Kidambi, on the other hand, was hitting smashes outside the chalk and lost the first game 15-21.
The 12th seeded Kidambi opted for a more aggressive approach in the second game, which initially worked in his favour but 24-year-old Loh also improved his net game and defence to go into the break with a slender 11-9 lead. The Indian made a fighting comeback with his down-the-line smashes, coupled with a few unforced errors from Loh, and went from 14-14 to 18-16.
Just when it looked like the match was heading to a decider, Loh came back fighting. He returned everything Kidambi threw at him and his defence helped the Singaporean reach 20-19. Srikanth saved two championship points but fumbled in the third to lose the match and settle for a silver medal.
It was the first final since the 2019 India Open for Srikanth, who has been troubled by fitness issues and lack of form in the last few years.