Lagging behind in the rankings, the shuttler needs to find his mojo to have a shot at making the Games.
The Olympic Qualification window seems to be closing fast for Indian shuttler Srikanth Kidambi. In the past six tournaments, his best performance has been reaching the semi-finals of the Swiss Open. Moreover, in the Race to Tokyo rankings, Srikanth finds himself lagging at 20th.
To book a berth at the quadrennial event, Srikanth will need to win at least a Super 500 or Super 750 tournament to come close to the Tokyo Qualification window. However, forced by the pandemic, several qualification tournaments were either canceled or postponed. As of now, only three Super 500 or Super 750 tournaments are left before the qualification cut-off date. These are the India Open, the Malaysian Open and the Singapore Open.
Notably, there is an underlying threat of the pandemic which can affect the conduct of these tournaments. Therefore, Kidambi needs to pull up his socks to win a few matches and importantly a title.
The Rise of Srikanth Kidambi
A few years ago, Kidambi established himself as the next superstar of Indian badminton after Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand. He beat players of the caliber of Lin Dan and Victor Axelson and also made his way into the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The ace shuttler went on to have an even more prolific 2017 season, clinching four singles titles. He eventually became only the second Indian male to be ranked world No. 1 in 2018.
The Fall of Srikanth Kidambi
Following a stunning 2017 and 2018 season, several injuries cost Kidambi a fall in his world rankings. Notably, he suffered a serious knee injury which led to a drop in his rankings. His best performance in 2019 was reaching the finals at the India Open, where he eventually lost to Victor Axelson.
Meanwhile, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, Srikanth was struggling with his performances. He went through seven losses in his 12 tournaments in 2020, with first round exits in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Thailand Open.
Will Kidambi make it to the Tokyo Olympics?
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kidambi was the sole male shuttler to represent the Indian contingent and performed exceptionally well. He went on to become the first Indian male shuttler to reach the quarterfinals of the mega event. However, hopes of winning a medal were brought down by Olympic gold medalist Lin Dan in a thrilling three-game encounter.
It will be Srikanth’s second appearance at the quadrennial event, if he manages to qualify for the same. Currently, the qualification period for the Tokyo Games has been scheduled from April 25 to June 15. The top 16 singles players and top 8 doubles players in the Race to Tokyo ranking list will automatically make the Tokyo Olympics cut.
As Srikanth is ranked 20th on the list, a couple of good performances can lead him to the Tokyo Olympics qualification cut. He will need to participate in all crucial tournaments and move up the ladder with positive performances before the BWF freezes the ranking list.
Under the aegis of his new coach, Indonesia’s Agus Dwi Santoso, Kidambi will look to work on areas of improvement for the remaining qualification tournaments. Notably, Srikanth will be seen at the upcoming India Open to be held from May 11 to May 16. It is a Super 500 tournament which is to be held in New Delhi.
Importantly, it is an Olympic qualification tournament and Kidambi should look to make a strong impact at this event to increase his chances of securing a Tokyo Olympics berth.