The second biggest wonder of the first round match between Kidambi Srikanth and Irish crazyball Nhat Nguyen was how coach Pullela Gopichand managed to stay stoic through what was a 66-minute long 17-21, 21-16, 21-6 nervous carnage. The eye-popping figure though was how Srikanth went from a wretched 17-21 error-strewn botched opening set to a 21-6 mince-pie of the third set.
Srikanth’s reading of the court conditions (rather negotiating the drift) was terrifyingly abysmal, as the sixth seed Indian kept netting his pushes and taps and acute crosscourts to fail to close out a 15-9 lead.
There is intense speculation over what drives Srikanth’s mind melancholy on the court, given he’s been off colour of late. The simple answer is the man loves to attack, and feels cramped when he’s denied that savage flair. A complex answer is awaited. Yet, Nguyen worked up such a frenzy with his speedy returns that Srikanth was blitzed through the end of the first and start of the second, before he found his footing.
Chip-charging at the net thereafter on down the lines and attacking Nguyen’s forecourt backhand with some crisp cross unfettered smashes, Srikanth would slowly lose his stalker. Nguyen has the bustle but not the brisk shot-making accuracy, and it would be cleaved open in the decider as Srikanth stormed after the calm. Picking 11 straight points, he’d race away to restore normalcy and get his taut coaches to smile and breathe eventually. Nguyen is ranked World no. 81, and carried the rookie’s enthusiasm into the match — attempting to crowd Srikanth with returns, even as he spilled some blood from diving around madly.
Srikanth was stretched and at one point — down 8-10 and 13-all in the second precisely — was in real threat of the match spinning out of his control. The confident smashes were back soon, and the 21-6 decider margin might even convince him what preceded was just a bad dream.