Indian badminton in 2017: A smashing success story

Written By:

Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu

Bengaluru, December 28: Over the years, badminton has enjoyed a niche space Indian sporting landscape. But 2017 has been a landmark year for the sport in India as shuttlers put up ground breaking performances.

For the major part, women held the reins of Indian badminton but in 2017 their men counterparts emerged out of shadows. But star of the year undoubtedly was Kidambi Srikanth.

His records will testify to that. Aided by a lethal smash and fast pace, Srikanth went through a tremendous run in the latter part of the year. Now, he’s the numero uno shuttler in the country and one of the top shuttlers in the world.

Ironically, Srikanth’s rise to the top began with a defeat to former World No 1 Korean Son Wan Ho at the World Championship. After that quarters loss, Srikanth lost just one match in the 13 matches he played since and pocketed four super series titles.

The Guntur-born shuttler reached his first Super Series final of the year in April at the Singapore Super Series, but he went down to compatriot B Sai Praneeth.

But the 24-year-old showed his mettle, winning the next super series title - the Indonesia Super Series title in June. Srikanth defeated Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai 21-11, 21-19 to become the first Indian to win this title. Then he went on to win the Australian Open in the same month, defeating China’s Chen Long 22-20, 21-16.

With that win Srikanth became the only Indian to enter three consecutive super series finals. But he was far from finished. The Indian hit a minor speed bump when he lost out in the quarters of the World Championship.

But he bounced back from that reverse to win the Denmark Open and the French Open titles. With the wins, Srikanth marked his place as one of the best contemporary shuttlers and he became only the fourth player ever to win four Super Series titles in a year.

The only other players to achieve this feat are Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Chen Long. Adding icing on the cake, Srikanth also achieved his career-best ranking - world No 2.

But blips came in the shape of a knee injury and a defeat in the National championship summit clash in November. Though the Indian made an appearance in the Dubai Super Series Finals, he failed to go past the round robin stages. But those were minor aberrations in an otherwise fruitful year.

Other men shuttlers like HS Prannoy and Praneeth too pocketed a super series title each to cap a wonderful year for Indian men’s shuttlers. That Praneeth and Prannoy ousted fellow Indians to win their titles reflects the dominance of Indian shuttlers.

It would be a miss not to credit India’s specialist coach Mulyo Handoyo, the man behind the men’s success.

Indian head coach Pulella Gopichand has on several occasions credited Mulyo and heaped praise on him for raising badminton to new heights. Mulyo joined the coaching team nine months back and since then the shuttlers have seen tremendous success.

But in what could be a big setback heading to the New Year, Mulyo is looking to return home soon.

Sindhu show goes on

In the women’s front, PV Sindhu remained at the helm. Sindhu’s stupendous run began in 2016 with a silver in the Rio Olympics. The 2017 was a fruitful year for the shuttler, winning two Super Series titles - India Open and Korea Open.

The Hyderabadi has been an epitome of consistency over the past few years and 2017 was no different. She won the gold medal in the Syed Modi Grand Prix, besides grabbing two super series titles and a runner-up finish in the Hong Kong Open.

Sindhu also picked up silver medals in the World Championship and the Dubai Super Series Finals.

While we applaud the achievements of the shuttler, a note must be made of Sindhu’s 'trouble’ in the final. The 22-year-old Indian fought hard in title rounds in the Dubai and in the World Championship events but could not apply the finishing touches. She would like to fix that come next year.

Meanwhile. Saina Nehwal continued her return from an injury that she has been carrying from the Rio Olympics.

Despite not winning a title, Saina did manage to wrap up the year on a positive note as she defeated Sindhu in the nationals final for her third title.

This will surely serve as a major boost to the Indian shuttler who looks to regain her top spot in the upcoming year.

Titles. Fine efforts. 2017 gave Indian badminton lot to cheer. Will 2018 serve similar golden moments? Let’s hope so.

Story first published: Thursday, December 28, 2017, 18:25 [IST]
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