A fighting Kidambi Srikanth couldn’t sustain the pressure as he went down in straight games to Olympic and world champion Viktor Axelsen in his opening men’s singles match at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open Super 750 tournament here on Wednesday.
Srikanth, a World Championship silver medallist, flattered to deceive as he squandered a 14-5 lead in the second game to go down 14-21, 19-21 to the world no. 1 Dane, leaving the cheering fans at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium disappointed.
World no. 39 Aakarshi Kashyap and world no. 34 Malvika Bansod also couldn’t match their fancied rivals — Beiwen Zhang of the US and Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrung — and bowed out after losing their respective matches.
While Akarshi lost 15- 21, 12-21 to Zhang, Malvika squandered an 11-8 lead in the opening game to eventually go down 17-21, 12-21 to world no. 12 Busanan. With the crowd rooting for him, Srikanth made a good start as he dominated the rallies, extracting mistakes from Axelsen.
The Indian tried to lunge his opponent forward, using his strokes to move the tall Dane. He unleashed some sensational smashes to move to a 7-5 lead but an alert Axelsen caught up at 8-8 and then with a superb smash took a threepoint lead at the break.
At 13-9, Axelsen committed a rare service error before another shot went to the net. Srikanth tried to set up the rallies but often erred in his finishing.
The Dane eventually sealed the opening game after the Indian smashed out twice. Srikanth made an attacking start after the change of ends, using his smashes to good use, to lead 5-1.
Two tight smashes on either side helped the Indian to maintain his lead to 8-3 before he entered the break with a healthy seven-point advantage when Axelsen went to the net.