K Srikanth’s hopes of winning the season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals came to a screeching halt on Thursday after his second defeat in two days. The second seed lost to world No 7 Chou Tien Chen in straight games 18-21, 18-21 in a match that lasted 43 minutes.
Having lost his opening match in straight games as well, against a dominating Viktor Axelsen, Srikanth will not be able to proceed to the semi-finals from Group B. He’ll now take on China’s Shi Yuqi, who has sealed his place in the final four after a come-from-behind win against Axelsen, in a dead rubber on Friday.
In the match against Chou, Srikanth was off to a poor start, losing the first five points, due to a combination of fast play from the Chinese Taipei player and errors from his own racquet. He especially struggled with his jump smashes through out the first game, while Chou’s attacking game was on point.
Chou would go on to take a 19-9 lead and that’s when Srikanth started to fight back. He won 9 of the next 10 points, saving six game points in the process before eventually losing the first game 18-21.
But the momentum was now with Srikanth and it showed early in the second game, as he ran into a 7-4 lead. His smashes started landing inside the lines and he was starting to make Chou move around the court. But, despite playing much better, Srikanth was unable to pull away into a sizeable lead, once again due to a combination of his errors and Chou’s dogged defending. The Indian led 11-9 at the break, then opened up a 17-14 lead but Chou was in no mood to take the match into a decider.
Four straight errors from Srikanth followed, and Chou let out a loud cry as a win was now in his sights. He did not let Srikanth come back, converting his first match point and recording his first win at the event.
The two had faced each other only twice before, winning one each, but the last time was back in the 2015 edition of the Dubai Finals. Chou had won that match in straight games, just like he did on Thursday.
For Srikanth, this will be a disappointing end to a fine year, where he won four Superseries titles. Having missed the last two Superseries events due to an injury, Srikanth could not reach the form he showed in November, where he looked unbeatable. The two defeats, and the nature of them, will be a tough to pill to swallow for the Indian, as he looks forward to first, the Premier Badminton League, followed by a potentially tiring 2018 season.