Srikanth wins Australian Open for second straight Superseries title


India's Kidambi Srikanth lifted his second consecutive Superseries title of the year after defeating Olympic gold medallist Chen Long 22-20, 21-16 at the Australian Open final in Sydney on Sunday.

With this win, Srikanth became the first Indian man to win the title - along with two back-to-back Superseries titles - strengthening his position as the second-most successful Indian after Saina Nehwal in Superseries events. Srikanth has now won four Superseries titles, while Saina has won ten Superseries titles so far - two of which have come at the Australian Open. He also became the first Indian man to move to number one in the Destination Dubai rankings.

This was Srikanth's third successive and fifth Superseries final overall. He had previously won the China Open in 2014 and the India Open in 2015. He had lost to compatriot B Sai Praneeth in the final of the Singapore Open earlier this year before winning the Indonesia Open last week.

Trailing 0-5 in the head-to-head tally against reigning World champion Chen, Srikanth entered the court looking calm. In the early minutes of the match, Srikanth won his first point with a 28-shot rally with a delicate half smash to level at 1-1. What followed thereafter was a series of cautious shots as Srikanth attempted to tire Chen, moving him all across the court to lead 5-3.

Srikanth utilised his attacking strokeplay against Chen, who was mostly forced to defend. From crosscourt smashes to resolute lifts, Srikanth forced the current World No. 6 to commit unforced errors and net his shots to lead 11-9 at the changeover.

Chen did well to stay within touching distance of Srikanth and led him 14-12 after the changeover as he made a concerted effort to be more aggressive. Chen made a couple of uncharacteristic errors but Srikanth's smash was in good working order as he led 17-15. Chen, however, forced Srikanth to net shots, scoring four back-to-back points to lead 19-17. Srikanth also tried to shorten the rallies and attack at every possible opportunity, but the high risk approach did pay dividends as Chen crumbled under the sustained pressure allowing him to take a lead at 20-19.

Tied at 20-20, Srikanth secured a second match point with a calm smash and converted the same soon after to take the game 22-20. It was fitting that Srikanth won the opening game after Chen failed to read a backhand as Chen often struggled to match Srikanth's deceptive play at the net.

The second game began with a prolonged rally ended by Srikanth's powerful down-the-line smash as he took an early 4-1 lead after employing a backhand smash, a shot which has given him a lot of success in the tournament. Leading at 6-2, Chen attempted to attack back, hitting long shots to force Srikanth to play wider and commit errors as Chen scored five consecutive points to take a lead at 7-6. Srikanth continued to remain aggressive but trailed for the first time in the second game after a successful challenge from Chen. The lead went back-and-forth thereafter, with both players missing shots and staying level, only to score another point soon after before Srikanth led 11-9 at the changeover after winning two points in succession.

Both players adopted an attacking style of play post the changeover, with Srikanth capitalising on his steep smashes and Chen taking advantage of his height by playing drop shots. At 16-13, Srikanth scored one winner after the other, executing his superior backhand to perefection to take a lead at 19-16. Chen then hit a service error to give Srikanth his first match point opportunity and he converted it soon after as Chen hit a return long to win the match and his second Superseries final in two weeks.