Kidambi Srikanth, seeded seventh, put up a brave fight but it wasn’t enough as the Indian went down 19-21, 21-16, 21-18 to Lee Dong Keun of South Korea in the quarterfinals of the Japan Open. Srikanth was the last remaining Indian in the tournament and his ouster meant that after a long time there will be no Indian in the semifinal of a tournament either in the women’s or the men’s draw. PV Sindhu, who won a silver medal at the recently-concluded 2018 Asian Games, suffered a shock second-round defeat to China’s Fangjie Gao while Saina Nehwal didn’t even participate.
There were other Indians in the men’s draw but all of them had already been ousted before Friday, leaving Srikanth as the lone Indian in the fray.
HS Prannoy lost to Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia 21-14, 21-17 in the second round on Thursday while Sameer Verma was a first-round casualty, losing 21-18, 20-22, 21-10 to Srikanth’s conqueror in the opening round.
With the elimination of his compatriots, Srikanth was tasked with winning back some Indian pride.
Things started well for the seventh seed in the quarterfinal against the South Korean. Srikanth won the first game, after holding the lead for much of that period. The Indian was up 7-4 up but the Dong Keun fought back to make it 10-10, Srikanth opened a narrow lead and held it till late in the game but South Korean refused to give up and again levelled the scores 19-19.
However, Srikanth held his nerves to win back-to-back points and close out the game.
The second game went the completely opposite way with Dong Keun outplaying his higher-ranked opponent. The South Korean took the lead on the first point and held it right till the end.
The third and final game was a much tighter affair with Srikanth putting up more of a fight. Dong Keun took the lead early but Srikanth was always right behind. Srikanth was trailing 6-9 at one point but won three consecutive points to draw level.
The South Korean immediately hit back and won back-to-back points of his own to once again open a three-point gap at 12-9. However, Srikanth fought back again and this time did one better and won four points in a row to take a 13-12 lead and it seemed that would break the South Korean’s spirit. But instead, it made him even more dogged and determined.
Srikanth was leading 15-13 when Dong Keun won four consecutive points to take a decisive 18-15 lead. There was no late fightback from Srikanth as the South Korean held on to knock the remaining Indian out of Japan Open.
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