World Badminton Championships 2017: Kidambi Srikanth's terrific form makes him India's best medal prospect
But 2017 has been the year of Kidambi Srikanth who was busy rewriting history with every consecutive tournament. He became the first Indian to feature in three consecutive Superseries event finals.
Since Saina Nehwal won India's first Olympic medal in badminton at the 2012 London Games, the sport has seen an unprecedented rise in the country.
In 2013 and 2014 World Championships, it was the turn of another youngster PV Sindhu to shine as she won bronze in both the events.
Another Indian shuttler, who had a breakthrough in 2014 was Kidambi Srikanth. He defeated two-time Olympic champion China's Lin 'Super' Dan in straight games to win his maiden Superseries event, the China Open.
However, Srikanth remained an enigma in the years between 2014 -2017.
He constantly scuttled in and out of the top 20, with the China Open victory giving him his first entry into the top 10 and he also qualified for the year-ending BWF Superseries Masters, where he bowed out in the semi-final.
The year 2015 saw him winning a Grand Prix gold event and yet another Superseries event, while staying in the top 10 for the entire year, even breaching into the top 3.
Though, he reached the quarter-final of the Rio Olympics where he lost to Lin Dan and won the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold event, he fell out of the top 10 for the first time in a year.
With PV Sindhu's silver medal at the Rio Olympics, the focus entirely shifted on to the women's singles and Kidambi Srikanth along with the men's singles was relegated to the periphery.
An ankle injury after his quarter-final exit at Rio 2016 saw him miss the end of last season.
Then 2017 happened.
The year of Kidambi
The first three months of the year played out like his previous years and although he started the year as World No 15, he was out of the top-30 for the first time in almost three years in March.
The script was all too familiar and it felt the law of averages caught up and stuck to him firmly.
But, then in April 2017, there was a change of fortunes.
Kidambi Srikanth reached the finals of the Singapore Open Superseries defeating higher-ranked Shi Yuqi from China.
For the first time in a ranked event, two Indian players faced off in the summit clash where B Sai Praneeth prevailed in a three game encounter.
However, this was the start of the rise and rise of the Hyderabad-based shuttler from the Pullela Gopichand Academy.
In the Indonesia Open Superseries premier in June, he beat World No 1 Son Wan Ho on his way to lifting his first BWF title in more than a year.
He was now World No 11.
In the Australian Open Superseries that followed in the span of two weeks, Kidambi met 2016 Olympic champion Chen Long in the final. The Chinese shuttler had never lost to Kidambi in five previous attempts.
But 2017 has been the year of Kidambi who rewrote history with every consecutive tournament. He became the first Indian and only the sixth player ever to feature in three consecutive Superseries event finals.
Kidambi beat Chen Long 22-20, 21-16 to become the second most successful Indian after Saina Nehwal at Superseries events.
The win put him right back into the top 10 and he now enters his third World Championship as World No 8.
The 24-year-old's run this year has also propelled him to the top of the overall prize money standings. His haul of $147,847.50 is more than double the earnings of second-placed Lee Chong Wei.
Kidambi Srikanth is seen as the torch-bearer of Indian men's singles shuttlers who have ruled the roost this year. The performance of the Indians has posed tough questions to the Chinese domination in the sport.
India has seven shuttlers in the top 50, one more than China and two more than Denmark.
Since Prakash Padukone's bronze medal in 1983, India never had a men's medal winner at the World Championships. In the tournament starting on 21 August in Glasgow, India is fielding Ajay Jayaram, B Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma along with Kidambi Srikanth in the men's singles event.
Srikanth, who has been handed a comparatively easier draw among the four, will start his World Badminton Championships campaign against Russia's Sergey Sirant.
Having never gone past the third round in two previous attempts, Kidambi, who has recently developed a knack of breaking records, would like to add this to his recent successful run.
With the Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo proving to be a game-changer for Kidambi, the reticent shuttler has developed a confident net-game and an all-round attacking style of play.
With India going with a 21-member contingent, its largest ever, to the World Championships, the in-form Kidambi, who is on a 10-match winning streak, might just be India's brightest medal prospect.
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