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K Srikanth's Journey From Injuries to 4 Super Series Titles in 2017

A sportsman’s career can be divided into three parts — where he tastes success instantly on the international circuit, when there is a dip in performance and when a player returns invigorated, to produce the best results. These are the stages that the very best in the world have experienced, and ace India shuttler Kidambi Srikanth is no different.

Madhav Agarwal | News18 Sports

Updated:October 30, 2017, 11:00 AM IST
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K Srikanth's Journey From Injuries to 4 Super Series Titles in 2017
File image of Kidambi Srikanth. (Getty Images)
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A sportsman’s career can be divided into three parts — where he tastes success instantly on the international circuit, when there is a dip in performance and when a player returns invigorated, to produce the best results. These are the stages that the very best in the world have experienced, and ace India shuttler Kidambi Srikanth is no different.

The 24-year-old, whose senior career started a good five years back has had his share of ups and downs, but what has stayed with him is his will to come back stronger every time he falls. Without much debate, the Rio Olympics, and the phase after that is Srikanth's toughest till now. A failed chance to create history at the Olympics, after losing to Lin Dan in the quarter-finals didn't really go down well for the Guntur lad. So much so, that he — mentally bored of the sport — left for his home for a brief break. And then followed the heart-breaking ankle injury during the Korea Open 2016.

Being the elder brother, and a badminton player himself, K Nangopal knows what his brother went through and how exactly he felt. Without mincing words, he says, "That was perhaps the hardest time Srikanth has seen. He was definitely upset at not winning against Lin Dan at the Olympics, that too after taking him to the third game. Then the injury happened and that nearly kept him out of action for four months. We had expected him to recover faster, but then he couldn't move for a month after the injury."

"But the kind of person he is, he regrouped himself and worked towards regaining fitness. Despite not being able to move, he used to just do upper-body workout and play some shots sitting; something similar to what Sindhu had done prior to the Rio games. This of course happened with a lot of support from Gopi Bhaiya (Pullela Gopichand). I think this whole episode taught him to remain patient. He used to tell us 'my time will come'," Nandgopal told News 18, talking about his brother's journey from the oblivion to unprecedented fame and success.

"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." ― Paulo Coelho.

From jogging, to light training sessions, to playing 11-point matches in the Premier Badminton League, Srikanth did it all to bring his career back on track. And now he has pocketed the Australian, Denmark, Japan and the French Open in what has been an excellent year for him.

"Srikanth has not only won these titles, but also brought in a lot of consistency in his game. A big part of the credit goes to Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo, who has changed his training regime, and has improved his fitness standard. One must not forget the contribution of Gopi bhaiya, for standing by him always."

-When Brain Fever Almost Got Srikanth-

2013 had been a relatively successful year for Srikanth. He had won the Thailand Open Grand Prix, and had also won the National championship by beating Parupalli Kashyap. But 2014 saw him close to a near-death experience. Sometime in July that year, Srikanth was found unconscious in the bathroom, after complaining about headache. With no Gopichand around, Nandgopal took him to the hospital, where he was put in the ICU.

"That was one horrific moment for me. I had no elders around me, and Gopi Bhaiya was in the US. He was admitted, and diagnosed with a brain fever. He was on high medication for close to two weeks, but wasn't allowed to take antibiotics as the Commonwealth Games were approaching. Despite his condition, and having not recovered fully, he went till the quarters. Then he followed it up with a win at the China Open, beating Lin Dan. We did not expect him to win — to be very frank — but he did. That just shows, how mentally strong he is. In fact I look up to him, when it comes to mental toughness," Nandgopal added.

-When Srikanth was a Doubles Player-

It was way back in 2008 that Srikanth had a brief stint at the Gopichand Academy. Like his brother Nandgopal, he was roped in as a doubles specialist. Their parents had requested coach Gopichand to let their younger ward, Srikanth join the academy too. It was only by end of 2011 that the coaches at the academy realised his potential as a singles player.

"Srikanth had joined the academy as a doubles player and was getting decent results too. He had won silvers in mixed doubles and boy's doubles of the Commonwealth Youth Championships in 2011. But he had a wide range of shots, and Gopi bhaiya soon shifted him to singles.

"Coming into the singles so late, he tasted success early as in 2012, he won the Maldives International Challenge beating Malaysian Zulfaddi Zulfikki."

-The Best Indian Player-

After the Denmark Open win, experts have started speaking off him as the best Indian player in the modern Era, but there are some who argued that he is yet to reach that stage. For the Kidambi family he will always remain the best, not just for the level of his game, but the kind of person he is.

"Anyone can become a good player, but it takes a lot more to be a champion. Look at Lee Chong Wei, he is calm and composed. I put him in that league. He is not overawed after winning a title. After so many wins under his belt, I can proudly say, he is still the same person, from when he started playing," Nadgopal concluded.
| Edited by: Pratik Sagar
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