Sydney : Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth notched up his second successive Super Series title with a stunning straight-game triumph over reigning Olympic and world champion Chen Long in the Australian Open summit clash here today.
The world no.11 Srikanth won 22-20 21-16 in a 45-minute clash against the world no.6 Chinese, who is also the current All England champion. Srikanth, who had reached the summit clash in Singapore and Indonesia before this tournament, is only the fifth player in the world to contest three successive Super Series finals.
The Indian, a semi-finalist in the last edition of the tournament, was the one to grab the early lead. Following a sedate start, Srikanth capitalised on his opponent's rather sluggish game to clinch a 10-6 lead.
But perhaps jolted by the lead he had conceded, Long gathered himself just in time, starting with a deftly-placed smash, to make it 11-11.
The Chinese shifted gears quite suddenly to add pace to the proceedings and his baseline strokes stood out for both ferocity and accuracy. But the Indian was no pushover and played the catch-up game quite well, coming up with a couple of brilliant smashes of his own.
And it was this tenacity which got Srikanth a 17-15 lead even though Long continued to breathe down his neck. But Srikanth did not let the momentum slip, helped by Long's erratic game and the underdog earned his first game point at 20-19.
Long managed to save that with a rasping smash but Srikanth's perseverance fetched him another at 21-20 when the Chinese wasfoxed by a low backhand return. This time, Srikanth made no mistake and sealed the first game in 23 minutes. The second game began with an engaging baseline rally, which ended with Srikanth smashing his way to earn the first point.
The see-saw battle continued for a while before Srikanth broke away to lead 6-3, dominating the rallies with his accurately, rather awkwardly, placed shots, which Long found difficult to return. But it was not to say that Long was completely out of the contest. He did manage to keep the gap in check with flashes of brilliance that make him among the best in the world.
However, Srikanth seemed determined to end his winless streak against his fancied rival and led 11-9 at the lemon break of the second game. Srikanth did not let the lead slip from that point, raising his game by quite a few notches against an increasingly faltering Long.
It took Srikanth a minute less than the first game to wrap up a rather comfortable victory. The triumph was a morale-boosting jinx-breaker for Srikanth, who had lost all his previous five encounters to Long.