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Srikanth Kidambi and the importance of self-belief

Srikanth Kidambi lost against Kento Momota in the first round of French Open Super 750 in Paris in October.

Without context, that statement sounds perhaps like what you would expect to read about the former World No 1 in recent times – late 2018, nearly the entirety of 2019 or 2020, or the early part of 2021.

He has been struggling against Momota for a while now, that defeat in Paris was indeed the 11th straight loss against the Japanese superstar. He has been struggling, in general, for a while now and early exits in tournaments had become the norm rather than the exception.

It was a period that saw him slip out of top 10, miss out on qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, and largely look like a pale shadow of himself.

But context, in this case, is everything. The scoreline for the match was 21-18, 20-22, 21-19 in favour of Momota. Even if it wasn’t prime Momota, it was still Momota and it was Srikanth playing close to his best. A close first game that was at 18-18. A second game where Srikanth saved two match points, winning four in a row from 18-20 down. A third game where he led 19-17 and then at 19-19…

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