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Srikanth loses to Lin Dan after gallant fightback

Last updated on: August 17, 2016 22:56 IST
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Kidambi Srikanth and Lin Dan

IMAGE: India’s Kidambi Srikanth, left, and China’s Lin Dan embrace after their nail-biting men’s singles quarter-final at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters.

Kidambi Srikanth played his heart out before going down fighting to two-time defending champion Lin Dan in the quarter-finals of the men's singles badminton at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old from Guntur, who had beaten the five-time World champion from China in the 2014 China Open final lost 6-21, 21-11, 21-18 after 64 minutes of engrossing play.

The world No. 3 Chinese will take on his long-time rival, the man he beat for the gold medal in Beijing and London, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in what promises to be a mouth-watering semi-final.

The top seeded Malaysian beat sixth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei 21-9, 21-15 in another quarter-final.

In the other quarter-finals, Chen Long edged South Korea's Son Wan-ho 21-11, 18-21, 21-11 and will meet Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in Friday's other semi-final, while fourth seed Axelsen was too strong for Britain's Rajiv Ouseph, winning 21-12, 21-16.

Srikanth thus remains only the second Indian male shuttler to reach the quarter-finals, after Parupalli Kashyap, who made the grade at the London Games in 2012.

The former world No. 3 Indian appeared tentative at the start and was outclassed in a lop-sided opening game that lasted just 16 minutes.

He struggled with his net play early on, allowing Lin Dan a 4-1 lead. The left-handed Chinese continued to dominate with his controlled stroke-play as he engaged Srikanth in long rallies to establish a 10-1 lead after winning a video referral.

With Srikanth again hitting long, Dan crossed over at the break ahead 11-1.

After the break, Srikanth got his act together, but was wayward, as Dan continued his relentless march to surge ahead.

Two unforced errors by the Indian handed the Chinese the opening game.

That first game defeat, however, was a catalyst for the Indian ace. He attacked for the outset in the second and raced to a 6-3 lead and a six-point advantage at the break.

Suddenly the Chinese was at the receiving end, often caught on the wrong foot by Srikanth's angled returns.

Kidambi Srikanth

IMAGE: India’s Kidambi Srikanth returns to China’s Lin Dan during their men’s singles quarter-final at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters.

Well-placed at 15-8, the Indian wasted a video referral, but it hardly mattered as the Chinese hit long and had a mountain to climb down 9-17.

A cross-court backhand return earned Srikanth another point and 10 game points with the Chinese hitting long again.

Though he sent a smash wide, he scored off the next point to force the match into the decider.

In the decider, six-time All England champion Dan opened a slender 2-0 lead, but Srikanth cut it to 3-4 before a superb rally ended with the Chinese going 5-3 up.

Srikanth continued to stretch his more experienced 32-year-old opponent and drew parity at 6-6 when he failed to lift a drop shot at the net.

He took a slender 9-8 lead for the first time when Dan hit long and entered the break ahead 11-8.

But the Chinese erased the deficit and drew abreast at 13.

A couple of unforced errors shifted the momentum Dan's way at 16-14. The Chinese netted a return but his disguised net shot caught the Indian on the wrong foot immediately.

Down 16-19 Srikanth did well to score a couple of points before the Chinese got to match-point. He saved one when Dan returned wide, but couldn't do much with a tossed up shuttle to the rear and bowed out.

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