Srikanth, Satwik-Maneesha & Verma make winning start
Glasgow: India's badminton stars got off to an all-win start in the opening session of the first day of the Total World Championships.
Srikanth Kidambi, touted as the 'man to watch out for' following his two Super Series wins in Indonesia and Australia, did not break a sweat during his clinical demolition of he Russian Open winner, Sergey Sirant 21-13, 21-12 in 29 minutes in front of an adoring crowd.
The mixed doubles pairing, never the strongest suit in Indian badminton, saw 17-year-old Satwiksairaj Ranki Reddy combine with K Maneesha, 22, beat a much higher ranked pair from Hong Kong, Tam Chun Hei and Ng Tsz Yau in two hard-fought games 24-22, 21-17.
A little later, buttressing India's growing stature in world badminton was World No. 29, Sameer Verma, who beat Spaniard, Pablo Abian 21-8, 17-4 as the latter, apparently injured, retired in a match where he was never in the fray. Verma will meet the winner of 16th seed Rajiv Ouseph (Eng) and Czech Adam Mendrek.
The soft-spoken Srikanth, trying to underplay his chances and work on a 'step-by-step' approach, said: "I have not set any targets as such, I just want to play and I want to go match by match. I did not think about the second before this match and now I am only thinking about second round."
But showing his understanding of big-ticket events, and the early round pitfalls, they carry, Srikanth added: "First rounds can always be tough in big Championships like this and I am happy that I came through it. It is a confidence booster. The bigger tests will come later. After the Indonesian Open, I had a long break but only I know how much I have worked in that period before coming here. I am feeling good and ready for all."
Srikanth is seen as the one who challenge the hegemony of Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei, who have dominated world badminton the past few years by winning all major events, including World Championships and Olympic gold medals.
Srikanth's next opponent will be Frenchman Lucas Corvee who rallied from a first game loss to beat Chinese Taipei's Lin Yu Hsien, 18-21, 21-17, 21-13. Srikanth only previous meeting with Corvee in 2015 brought the Indian a win, enroute to a win in 2015 Swiss Open, a Grand Prix gold event. Since then Srikanth has moved to adding Super Series titles to his cabinet.
Srikanth had no need to push himself and did just enough to keep Sirant at bay. Sirant's attempts to slow down matters with defensive play did not work as the Indian was on a different track.
In Mixed doubles, after their fine win over higher ranked opponents, Maneesha, said, "We had lost to the same pair in Malaysia in January and I told Satwik, we cant lose to them again. Satwik is the big difference in the teams as he is the one who closes points with his aggressive and attacking play." Satwik said: "Maneesha has improved a lot and we have been playing together for last year and a half and now we understand each other well. She played very good defense today (Monday)."