The defence of four Super Series titles this season is not bothering Kidambi Srikanth as the ace shuttler is focussed on staying injury-free and winning a gold medal at the upcoming Asian Games.
“The biggest challenge for me these days is to maintain my fitness. I actually have issues with both my ankles. After the Olympics I had issues with my right ankle but last year I hurt my left ankle at the Nationals. So I have to be more careful before I plan my tournaments. So staying away from injury, that is what I am trying to do,” Srikanth told PTI.
“Going forward there are 4-5 tournaments which are important this year, so the idea is to play at my 100 percent in all of them, without getting injured,” added the 25-year-old, who clinched the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Srikanth was in sensational form last season when he clinched four super series titles — French Open, Denmark Open, Australian Open and Indonesian Open.
“I am not worried about matching last year’s performances because for me this year there are very few tournaments which I am actually thinking to do well,” he said.
“In January, I set myself a couple of goals. One of them was the medal at the Commonwealth Games, and the next goal is to win a medal at Asian Games, because these two tournaments are really big and you don’t get to play every year. So Asian Games is what I am really focused on. There are of course some other tournaments which are important like the World Championship, though you have it every year but being a world champion is a different thing. So there are many events which are big and for me the target is to be just my best for these events.”
Srikanth said he can’t afford to wait for another four years for an Asian Games medal as no one knows if he will be able to make it to the Indian team again given the talent in the country.
“No one can predict if I will qualify for the next Asian Games or not because the sport in our country has grown so much and the level of other players, I mean they are playing at the highest level so no one can predict who would qualify next, so Asian games is the target for me,” he said.
“But all other Super Series, of course, I do want to win, but they happen every year, so even if I lose in the semifinals, I know there will again be a Super 1000 or Super 750 tournament in a week or a month. So now I am going for Malaysia but my focus is to stay fit for Asian Games because if I miss out now then I will have to wait for another four years.”
Talking about his schedule, Srikanth said: “I am playing three successive tournaments Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand and then I will skip the Singapore Open.”
“I will take a break and play the World Championship and then again train and play at the Asian Games. Until the end of August, these are the five tournaments that I will be playing and I am not thinking much ahead.”
Srikanth became the world no 1 in April during the Commonwealth Games and he said the achievement has relaxed his mind and chasing the numero uno status again is no more his priority.
“For a couple of months, I was almost there being world no 2, I was few 100 points less so it was always there in my mind that I missed out of being world no 1, so to actually achieve that feat had relaxed me a lot. Now I’m not worried about anything,” said Srikanth, currently ranked 4.
“Being world no 1 again is not the priority now and I think more about winning the tournament, I don’t go into a tournament to get those few points and become no 1 again, so it is about winning tournaments consistently,”
Srikanth was criticised for skipping the prestigious Thomas Cup and the Indian said he was forced to take the decision to give rest to his body after a gruelling Commonwealth Games.
“It was a tough decision to skip Thomas Cup. It’s my doctor who wanted to give my ankles rest to recover because I had a hectic commonwealth Games. I played about 11-12 matches in 10-11 days and I didn’t get any rest during the whole tournament. Not all the matches were difficult but you still had to prepare the same for every match,” he said.
“You also have to think about your body, you can’t really keep pushing yourself blindly and sit out for a year. It happened to me when after the Olympics I had to sit out for three months. That was actually of no use to sit out for such long time so I thought I had to give my body the time to recover so that I am in good shape for the Asian Games and the World Championship.”