Kidambi Srikanth has become the first Indian male shuttler to achieve the world number one ranking in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) chart released on Thursday.
Legendary Prakash Padukone was revered as the world number one player during his hey days before the modern day computerised ranking system was introduced. Srikanth thus became only the second Indian after Saina Nehwal, who had occupied the women’s top spot in 2015, to achieve the feat, following his consistent run last year, when he won four titles to be also bestowed with the Padma Shri award. “I’m definitely delighted to have achieved the World No. 1 ranking for the first time, and to become the first Indian man after Prakash sir to achieve this,” said Srikanth, who trains at the Gopichand Academy.
“It’s a testament to the hard work of Gopi sir, my family, my other coaches and support staff, my team GoSports Foundation, my sponsors, and everyone else who has believed in me over the years.”
Srikanth’s meteoric rise coincided with world champion Viktor Axelsen’s injury lay-off as the Danish star, forced to spend time off the court, slipped one place to second spot after failing to defend his Malaysia Open title that he had clinched in April last year. After retiring from Indonesia Masters in January due to an ankle injury, Axelsen was forced to withdraw from India Open, the All England Championship and the European Championships as he had to undergo surgery on his foot.
The time away from the court reflected on his ranking as he lost 1,660 points from his aggregate of 77,130 to slip to 75,470 as Srikanth held the number one spot with a total of 76,895 points. Srikanth, who had clinched titles at Indonesia, Australia, Denmark and Australia last year, rose to greater heights after he dispatched three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei in straight games in the crucial mixed team final to earn India a historic gold at the ongoing Commonwealth Games.
“It’s been a great year, but I have many more goals, and right now, my focus is on coming good at the big events and achieving many more milestones. The Commonwealth Games is on, and this year also holds the Asian Games,” the 25-year-old Indian said.
“My target is also to do my country proud at the Tokyo Olympics in two years’ time. I thank everyone for believing in me, and hope to inspire many other Indians to keep striving in their pursuit of excellence,” added Srikanth, who had stunned legendary Lin Dan to claim his maiden Super Series title at the 2014 China Open. Among other Indians, PV Sindhu is currently at third spot, while Saina is currently at the 12th place. HS Prannoy, meanwhile, improved a place to occupy the 11th spot.