Srikanth shines in Raptors victory

Srikanth shines in Raptors victory

IN CONTROL: Kidambi Srikanth of Bengaluru Raptors in action against Anders Antonsen of Mumbai Rockets in the Premier Badminton League in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

Playing their first match at home in front of a sizable and noisy crowd at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, the Raptors meant business from the word go to rise to fourth in the standings with 18 points. Despite the defeat, the Rockets remained in third position, a point ahead of Raptors.

The Raptors now need just one point against Chennai Smashers (13) in the final league game on Thursday to seal their spot in the knockouts.

With the opening two matches being low on quality and action, fans waited for the all-important battle between Raptors’ captain Kidambi Srikanth and Anders Antonsen. Srikanth, ranked eighth in the world, and Antonsen, the World No 18 from Denmark, didn’t disappoint one bit.

Both players kept trading blows from the beginning till the end, the fortunes fluctuating almost every point from one end to the other. While Srikanth, unbeaten so far in the tournament, was brilliant in defence, often pulling off some unbelievable returns from the near service line, Antonsen excelled in always keeping his foot on the pedal.

None gave each other an inch and the fans lapped up the high-speed action. It seemed Srikanth would blink first when Antonsen led 14-13 in the opening game. But Srikanth, calm and collected, levelled proceedings with a fine winner before displaying wonderful guile on match point. He drew Antonsen near to the net, then pushed him back before letting rip a body smash.

Antonsen led marginally at the halfway stage of the second but Srikanth kept breathing down his neck before marching ahead in the final phase with a mix of attacking and defensive play. Antonsen, seemingly upset with a challenge that he had asked for, simply lost the plot thereafter in the closing stages as Srikanth wrapped up a hard-fought win.