India's medal hopes received a much-needed shot in the arm with shuttler Kidambi Srikanth beating World No. 5 Jan Jorgensen of Denmark to advance to the quarterfinals of the men's singles badminton event at the Rio Olympics here today.
Coming into the match with a 1-2 head-to-head record, Srikanth dished out an aggressive performance to defeat Jorgensen 21-19 21-19 in a 42-minute battle to keep himself in contention.
He thus joined Parupalli Kashyap, who was the first Indian men's singles player to reach the quarterfinals of the Olympics at London Games in 2012. The 23-year-old Guntur lad, ranked 11th in the world, will next take on two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan tomorrow.
In a battle between equals, Jorgensen moved to a 3-1 lead before Srikanth turned the tables reaching 4-3. The duo engaged in a fierce battle of supremacy and moved neck and neck before Srikanth managed to enter the break with a 11-9 advantage.
Srikanth opened up a narrow 17-14 lead at one stage. His sharp returns earned him a lot of points even as the Dane kept breathing down his neck with some angled strokes which the Indian found difficult to negotiate. At 18-17, an aggressive rally ended with Srikanth placing the shuttle away from Jorgensen but he hit long next before moving into the game point with a cross court smash, which Jorgensen could not reach.
Jorgensen saved one when Srikanth made a bad judgement and left the shuttle. However, he sealed it next with another powerful cross court smash.
Srikanth carried on the momentum into the second game and dictated the tempo of the fast-paced rallies to reach 8-4 at one stage. The Indian, however, lost a few points with his backhand returns going to the net.
The Denmark shuttler also came up with some spectacular smashes and some brilliant net play to make it 10-9. At the break, Srikanth managed a 11-10 lead after a precise return, which landed just inside the line.
Jorgensen grabbed a few points to make it 13-13 before making Srikanth run across the court with his angled returns to lead 15-13. Jorgensen soon started dominating by changing the pace of the rallies too frequently and producing some sharp returns to trouble the Indian and reached 17-14.
But Srikanth soon clawed back with three points before the duo moved to 18-18. The Indian won a parallel rally with Jorgensen going to net and then Srikanth produced a sharp smash to reach the match point. He left the shuttle once again at the baseline before coming up with another smash to seal his place in the quarterfinals.
(With PTI inputs)