'For a long time I think Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan have dominated badminton. And now it has become more open.'
'There are many players who are playing really well and anybody can beat anyone on their given day'
In the best form of his life after winning four Super Series titles in five months, India's badminton sensation Kidambi Srikanth said that the days of domination of Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei are over and the tournaments are more wide open than ever.
Srikanth, who became the first Indian and only fourth men's singles player in the world to win four Super Series titles in a calendar year, said not a few but many players, including him, are capable of winning top tournaments these days.
"For a long time I think Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan have dominated badminton. And now it has become more open. Me, Viktor (Axelsen) and even other Indian players are winning tournaments. It has become more wide open and it's always good for the sport when you have so many champions," he said in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
Srikanth was felicitated at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad after his recent successive title victories at Denmark Open and French Open. He had won the Indonesia Open and Australia Open earlier this year to make it a highly successful year with four Super Series titles already.
"These days, there are many who are playing really well and anybody can beat anyone on their given day. So, it's always important to be at your best against anyone," he said.
Asked if he thinks Malaysia's Lee Chong and Lin Dan of China are nearing the end of their careers, he said, "I can't really say that's their end. They have played at the highest level and really have the experience to come back. One can't really take them lightly. Lin Dan played in the final of World Championship. They definitely are tough every time you play them. But, we need to believe in ourselves that we can do well."
Srikanth might be inching towards the coveted World No. 1 ranking after winning the French Open last weekend but he said he is not thinking too much about the rankings.
"To be frank I don't really think too much about the rankings. I really did well in the last eight to ten months. I want to just keep playing tournaments and enjoy playing the sport," he said.
Asked if he will become World No. 1 if he wins the upcoming China Open, Srikanth said, "That's how it is. If you do consistently well, rankings do follow. I don't want to run behind rankings but I want to play well in the tournaments."
Srikanth said he will be competing in the Nationals next week, besides the China and Hong Kong Open and the BWF World Super Series Finals in Dubai in December.
"I am very happy now. All the four Super Series are different. After I won the India Open in 2015, it took a long time to win the Indonesia title," said Srikanth, who beat Axelsen in the men's singles quarter-finals in the Denmark Open Super Series Premier.
He said match against compatriot H S Prannoy in the French Open was also a tough one.
"I was really thinking of playing well because I played a great match against him (Axelsen) in Japan Open but I lost with by just two-three points. I didn't want that to happen. I wanted to do better and luckily I was able to do it. I am happy with the way I played that quarter-final match. He has been in a great form. That win gave me a lot of confidence.
"Going into the French Open, it was a tough draw and with top players losing in initial rounds, there were so many thoughts running in my mind, but still I told myself that I will take it round-by-round. I fairly did well at the French Open," he said.
Srikanth said next year will be crucial as Commonwealth Games and Asian Games will be coming up.
"Next year has Commonwealth and Asian Games and it's definitely going to be an important year for all of us. If we consistently do well, train hard, we definitely have a chance," he said.
"I feel we just started to perform. May be in next couple of years, if we can consistently do well, other nations can be scared of us. But, for now I don't really think we can say that. We are still in that stage where we need to give more than 100 per cent in every match."
"Good fitness, the amount of training I have been doing in the last eight-ten months is really helping me now. Next year, we have many big events coming up and I really want to maintain my fitness and do well," he said.
He said he would need to maintain fitness and plan the calendar accordingly so that he could get enough time between tournaments.
"I think the overall mindset has changed. These days I am ready to play longer matches and I am not scared of playing longer matches. That gives you a lot of confidence when you are playing against top players. The mindset has been the biggest change," said Srikanth.