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Federer inspires me to stay calm on court: Srikanth

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

It was the question that Kidambi Srikanth probably took the longest to answer on Tuesday. It wasn't the toughest one he could have been asked but the Indian, soon to become the World No. 2, smiled, ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath before offering an explanation. The query was on his lack of celebration after a win. It wasn't entirely out of place given how the Indian dispatched a down-the-line smash for the winning point in the French Open final and then slowly walked towards the net to shake hands with his opponent like nothing had happened. That win made him only the fourth player in the history of the sport - after Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long - to win four Superseries titles in a calendar year.

"I'm a huge Roger Federer fan so I follow and take inspiration from him to be calm and focused on court. Those emotions come naturally to you, so you can't act or do anything," says Srikanth.

Facing a quick volley of questions on his return to Hyderabad after several weeks of travelling, beating some of the best players in the world and catching the first flight out for the next tournament, Srikanth picks his wins against Viktor Axelsen and stablemate HS Prannoy at the Denmark quarter-finals and French Open semi-finals, respectively, from the heap. "After losing to Viktor at the Japan Open, I really didn't want that to happen again so I wanted to do 10 percent more in Denmark. Luckily I was able to. He's been in great form so beating him gave me a lot of confidence," Srikanth says, adding "As far as the match against Prannoy goes we both played our hearts out. It was a very close and long match. Ultimately it was just about a couple of points. Had he won, he would have been sitting here today. Honestly, I've never seen him play that well. I was shocked myself."

Crediting a change in his mindset and approach for his recent successes, Srikanth says he's now purged fear. "These days I'm ready to play longer matches and not really scared. That, I think, gives me a lot of confidence. Also, the amount of training I've been doing over the last 8-10 months is also helping."

Srikanth is not quite ready to term India a dreaded force in the sport just yet and says there's still a long way to go for the country's players. "Yes after the dominance that Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan have had, it's definitely a lot more open now. I think Indian players have just started performing. Over the next couple of years if we can consistently do well only then we can say other nations are scared of us. For now, I don't think we can say that. We're still in that stage where we need to give more than our 100 percent in every match."