It all started in 2001 for K Srikanth
When Kidambi Srikanth beat Lin Dan of China in the Chinese Super Series badminton tournament recently, it was much more than an upset. It could well have been the defining moment of Indian badminton since for the first time, cracks could be seen all over the stubborn wall of Chinese badminton.
Kidambi Srikanth celebrates after beating Lin Dan to win China Open title in Fuzhou last Sunday. Pic/AFP
How did it all start for Srikanth? After winning the All England championships in 2001, P Gopichand was felicitated in Guntur at a function attended by Srikanth and his elder brother Nanda Gopal, who were accompanied by their father KVS Krishna.
Inspired by the fact that they had their photograph taken with India's biggest badminton star after Prakash Padukone, the kids pursued their badminton interest with more passion. With full support from their parents — father Krishna, a paddy field owner and Radha Mukunda, a housewife — they ended up as trainees at Gopichand's academy in Hyderabad.
Nanda Gopal, elder to Srikanth by a year, says: "We compete in different events. Srikanth plays singles, whereas I play the doubles and mixed doubles." He also reveals the secret behind his tenacious sibling: "When he enters the court, he does not think who the opponent is or how big his reputation is. He simply gives his 100 per cent and he loves the smash shot."
Off the field, Srikanth is a quiet man with simple needs, according to Nanda Gopal. "He does not speak much. Soft music is what he prefers and like me, loves the aloo-onion fries which our mother prepares."
Celebrating his recent elevation into badminton's big league Srikanth marched his way into the last four of the Hong Kong Open. It's hard to believe that this same player was suffering from meningitis (brain fever) a few months ago before making a brave return to the courts.
K Nanda Gopal (left) with his younger brother Srikanth
The Kidambis are eternally grateful to Gopichand, who mentored them at the academy, which accommodates around 60 players. The facility opens at 4.30 am and training is imparted throughout the day except a few hours in the afternoon.
Srikanth loses in Hong Kong
Kidambi Srikanth's good run in the $350,000 Hong Kong Open Super Series came to an end as he lost to top seed Chen Long of China in the men's singles semi-final here on Saturday. Srikanth lost 17-21, 21-19, 6-21 to the reigning World Champion in an hour and four minutes at the Hong Kong Coliseum. With his loss, India's campaign ended at the last Super Series event of the calendar.