INDIA GPG 2016 Finals – Srikanth 3rd time lucky

Kidambi Srikanth put his runner-up finishes behind him as he weathered a storm to take the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold title in his third straight final. By Don Hearn.  […]

Kidambi Srikanth put his runner-up finishes behind him as he weathered a storm to take the Syed Modi Gold title in his third straight final.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

It was starting to look all too familiar in the men’s singles final at the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships in Lucknow.  Kidambi Srikanth (pictured) didn’t blow a 19-12 lead or anything, like he did two years ago, but he did seriously go off the boil in his second game.

Srikanth was amazing in his opener against China’s Huang Yuxiang (pictured below).  The world #9 seemed to float about the court and he defended creatively and attacked with precision, thrilling the crowd as he cruised to a one-game lead.

The top seed got out to a great start in the second game but completely fell apart when Huang suddenly seemed to find his form.  Trailing 7-11 at the interval, the Chinese underdog simply caught fire and his string of 5 points to snatch the lead was barely interrupted as the Indian scored only three more before Huang had tied the match at one game apiece.

Huang had the momentum in the decider and surged out to a 7-2 lead but Srikanth battled back and only a point separated them as they changed ends.  At 14-13, Huang was shocked when his smash down Srikanth’s forehand sideline was called out.  Even television replays showed the shuttled clearly landing not on the line but inside it.

Huang was visibly unsettled after his protests came to no avail, with no correction from the umpire and no recourse to HawkEye call review.  Srikanth soon roared out to a commanding lead and finished the match to give the Indian fans the title they had been waiting for all afternoon.

Two big firsts in doubles

It may have been all favourites who won in Lucknow, but that didn’t mean the winners weren’t celebrating more than just another title.  For two doubles pairs, this week in India marked a first Grand Prix Gold title.  Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong (pictured) of Malaysia, who really made a name for themselves when they won the Commonwealth Games gold in 2014, had to come from behind to end the Cinderella story of the home favourites.

Pranaav Jerry Chopra / Akshay Dewalkar were the first to really get the crowd going on finals day.  The only thing better than a home title would be an upset victory for home players.  The Indians were also vying to be the first Indian men’s doubles pair ever to win a Grand Prix Gold title since the tournament distinction was created in 2007.

Pranaav and Akshay did a fantastic job of turning the shuttle on defense and finding the gaps on the Malaysian side of the court and they charged out to a one-game lead.  In the second, the Malaysians got an early edge but the Indians went on a six-point run from 8-11 down in the second to make that a tight contest as well.

The two pairs traded points until the end but after saving a game point, the Indians earned a game point when Goh V. Shem advanced early and was completely beaten by Akshay’s flick serve.  The Malaysians held their nerve when it counted, though, and finished out the game 24-22.

In the decider, the Malaysians attacked relentlessly and the Indians just did not seem capable of the wizardry they’d been showing in the first two games.  It was thus an unhappy anti-climax for the home spectators, whose vociferous support had been so vital to Pranaav and Akshay’s success all week, as well as in the final.

For mixed doubles winners Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto, it was a similar milestone to that achieved by Goh/Tan in men’s.  But while the Commonwealth Games gold medallists already had a Grand Prix title to their names, the Indonesian SEA Games gold medallists had had to wait until this event to take their first ever title in a ranking event.

Puavaranukroh Dechapol / Sapsiree Taerattanachai played a spectacular first game, both players having success at poking holes in Debby Susanto’s frontcourt dominance and keeping the shuttle away from the devastating attacks of Praveen Jordan (pictured).  The Thais still just barely scraped by, only winning on their 7th game point.

The second and third games were dominated by the 2nd seeds, however.  Praveen Jordan was particularly brilliant, with acrobatic smashes mixed up with just the right proportion of deft drops.

Korean ladies rule

Korean favourites took the titles in both women’s disciplines.  In singles, Sung Ji Hyun (pictured) barely outlasted Japan’s Sayaka Sato in a gruelling 85-minute marathon.  Sung allowed her opponent to erase a 15-8 lead in the deciding game and she was bent over in exhaustion after several rallies but despite her fatigue, she never lost her touch at the net and she kept her range as she continually pushed the shuttle deep to Sato’s back corners.  She took the second and third games both by 21-18 scorelines.

Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan (pictured bottom) were having none of the jitters that afflicted their top-seeded compatriots on Saturday.  The Koreans were ready and waiting for Dutch aces Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek.

The world #6 dominated both games and they took their fourth title in four months.  Jung and Shin will thus overtake their compatriots in the world rankings, putting Shin Seung Chan in the world’s top 5 for the first time.

Final results
XD: Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto (INA) [2] beat Puavaranukroh Dechapol / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  23-25, 21-9, 21-16
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [2] beat Sayaka Sato [5]  12-21, 21-18, 21-18
WD: Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [2] beat Eefje Muskens / Selena Piek (NED) [3]  21-15, 21-13
MD: Goh V. Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) beat Pranaav Jerry Chopra / Akshay Dewalkar (IND)  14-21, 24-22, 21-8
MS: Kidambi Srikanth (IND) [1] beat Huang Yuxiang (CHN)  21-13, 14-21, 21-14

Click here for complete results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @