HIGH FLIER The Indian beat Shi Yugi in straight sets to set up a final vs Olympic champ Chen Long at Australian Open
SYDNEY: Kidambi Srikanth blew away China’s Shi Yuqi with a “dream” performance to set up an Australian Open badminton final against Olympic champion Chen Long on Saturday.
The 11th-ranked Srikanth beat Shi, the world No. 4, 21-10, 21-14 in just 37 minutes to reach his third successive Superseries final.
China’s Chen gave himself a shot at his first Superseries title this year by fighting off South Korean veteran Lee Hyun-Il 26-24, 15-21, 21-17 in 68 minutes.
The women’s final on Sunday will be an all-Japanese affair between Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara.
Okuhara made her first Superseries final in over a year, wearing down China’s Sun Yu 21-18, 18-21, 21-14, while Yamaguchi played a brilliant counter-attacking game to shock Taiwanese top seed Tai Tzu Ying 21-19, 21-12.
Srikanth, who won last week’s Indonesia Open and also reached the Singapore Open final in May, gave a masterclass in net play and deception to blitz Shi.
“Yes, it’s a dream performance,” Srikanth said. “I played a World Superseries final (Singapore Open) after two years, and then to play the next two finals is a dream for sure.
“I was in control of the whole match, I didn’t give him any easy points at the start. It’s just that I had to stay there and not give him easy points. I was in control at the net.”
Srikanth dominated Shi right from the start, opening up a 6-4 lead in the opening stages of the first game.
The Indian continued to hold the upper hand, building on his lead to go into the break with a healthy 11-7 advantage.
He blew off his the Chinese shuttler after the break, taking four consecutive points to lead 16-9 before another burst of five back to back points saw him take the opening game.
Shi put up more of a fight in the early stages of the second game. The two shuttlers battled neck and neck till 7-7 before a three-point burst saw the Indian take the lead at 10-7.
Another streak of five points saw Srikanth at a commanding 15-8 advantage. The Indian never looked back from there as he sealed off a comfortable victory.
In the women’s semi-finals, Yamaguchi went for winners and never let off her pace against Tai, the world number one. Tai stayed level through the first game but Yamaguchi got lucky on her first game point -the shuttle catching the tape and tumbling into Tai’s court -and the Japanese consolidated her lead with solid play in the second.
Okuhara has lost four straight matches to her compatriot Yamaguchi, but she was hopeful of turning it around in Sunday’s final.