Srikanth slithers past brave Leverdez

Srikanth Kidambi

Kidambi Srikanth was forced to fight back from a game down to beat Brice Leverdez at the Yonex All England Open 2018 on Wednesday.

Srikanth, who is currently ranked third in the world, made no attempt to downplay the significance of the All England Open in the build-up to the event – stating that winning it can turn a good player into a legend.

In his opening match against Leverdez, the Indian shuttler seemed burdened by the self-imposed pressure of playing for his legacy in the sport as he lost the first set 21-7.

However, he responded well to win the second before the third transformed into an intense battle that Leverdez led 20-19 at one stage… only for Srikanth to claim 22-20 and in doing so advance to the second round.

“I’m just really happy with how it went for me,” said the 25-year-old Indian player.

“I think he’s definitely played really well and I was down match point in the third set and I would say I’m really lucky to pull this off.

“I haven’t played too many tournaments in the last few months so matches like these will definitely give me a lot of confidence.

“I think it’s definitely going to be tough when we go deeper in the tournament. I would really just like to play my best in the next round, I’m not really thinking about the quarterfinals.

“It’s really important just to do well in the second round.

“Every time I come here it’s definitely a great crowd.

“There is a great Indian crowd here and they support all the Indian players.

“At a point in time it actually feels like you’re playing back home and that’s a good thing to happen for any athlete, so I’m just really happy and excited to come back tomorrow.”

In the women’s draw, Canada’s Michelle Li sensationally caused the shock of the day when she defeated 2017 runner-up Ratchanok Intanon.

“I feel pretty good and I feel like I played pretty well,” said Li afterwards.

“I was able to keep my nerves in control this time so I’m very happy.

“I played Ratchanok many times last year and I’ve never won a game off her so I think I was well prepared and I was just very focused and tried not to rush – I think that really helped.

“I think before I was just nervous to play her because she’s very well-known, she’s very talented and I was scared.

“This time I went in with a different mentality, just to have more confidence in myself and see how that goes.”