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Srikanth, who was crowned Sportsperson of the Year at the third Mahindra Scorpio Times of India Sports Awards (TOISA) in February, today displaced Denmark’s Victok Axelsen from the top spot. He was a member of the Indian team that won the country’s first mixed team gold medal at the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Australia, and looks primed to win his first individual medal at the CWG as India’s shuttlers promise a gold rush.
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It truly has been a remarkable rise for Srikanth, one of Dronacharya Pullela Gopichand’s pupils. His ascension to No 1 in the BWF rankings began during a successful 2016, in which he won two gold medals in the men’s team and men’s singles of the 2016 South Asian Games, followed by reaching the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics. For his successful 2016, Srikanth was the recipient of the TOISA Badminton Player of the Year [People’s Choice].
Then came 2017, the year that changed his life. Srikanth won four Super Series titles, the most by any Indian badminton player ever, and finished runner-up in the final of the Singapore Open Super Series, where he lost to compatriot B Sai Praneeth in what was the first instance of two Indian shuttlers reaching a Super Series final.
Srikanth’s first Super Series title came when he beat Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai 21-11, 21-19 to win the Indonesia Open Super Series. A week later, beat world and Olympic champion Chen Long in straight games 22-20, 21-16 to claim the Australia Open Super Series. With these wins, he became the first Indian to claim back-to-back Super Series titles and subsequently broke into the top ten of the BWF men’s singles rankings for the first time in ten months, up to eighth.
In October 2017, Srikanth became the second Indian after Prakash Padukone to win the Denmark Open, the second Indian, after Saina, and first male to claim three Super Series in a year. History was made a week later, when he lifted the French Open by beating Kento Nishimoto 21-14, 21-13. With this, Srikanth moved from No 4 to a No 2 in the BWF men’s singles rankings.