Friday, April 1, 2016

We can now beat the top pairs: Pranaav Jerry Chopra

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian badminton’s men’s doubles scene appears bright with a couple of solid pairs showing signs of breaking into the elite top-10. The pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar (the other pair being Manu Attri-B.Sumeeth Reddy) have exuded immense promise in recent times, coming up with impressive performances on a consistent basis.
Pranaav Jerry Chopra has played his part in ensuring that he and Akshay have been able to work up a redoubtable combination on the court. The 23-year-old Ludhiana lad talks about his game and much more in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
Q: What are your expectations for the year 2016?
2016 has been great so far, I had delivered good performances in PBL and Syed Modi, also winning the bronze at Badminton Asia Team Championship was a good start to 2016. I wish we continue the same form and win bigger tournaments.
Q: You must have really enjoyed being part of the Indian team that stunned mighty China 3-2 in the recent Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad?
It is always great to be a part of history and we as a team certainly created history by defeating the leading nations in badminton.
Q: You and Akshay had a fabulous run at the 2016 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold, where you upset three higher ranked opponents. Must have been a special feeling.
Yes, it was a great feeling to win against these mighty opponents on home grounds in front of Indian fans. I must say the crowd support did us proud. It would have been much better if we would have been the winners but I’m still quite happy with the way we played all our matches in this tournament.

Q: Do you think beating pairs like A Pratama-R K Suwardi, M Conrad-Petersen-M P Kolding and Kim Sa-rang-Kim Gi-jung give you the confidence that you guys can break into the top-10 sooner than later?

Yes, it definitely gives us great confidence because all these pairs are in the top-10 and beating them is a sign of progress for us.
Q: Indian have a solid men’s doubles pair in Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy and with you guys being a formidable pair, things are looking good for the Indian doubles scene. Your thoughts.
Yes, it is very important to have two good pairs in a team who have been defeating different top pairs of the world. It is also very motivating for the upcoming juniors.
Q: How much has the presence of Malaysian doubles coach Tan Kim Her helped you guys?
We have more specific doubles training sessions since the presence of Tan coach. We have well-planned practice sessions for the entire month. He asks us to focus on individual weaknesses and work more on the coordination as a pair and understand each other's game well.
Q: You have been playing with Akshay since 2011. What has been the secret of your success story so far?
I think playing together for so many years itself has been the secret. When u play together for so long you tend to develop a certain understanding with your partner that helps during tough matches.
Q: How you think the Premier Badminton League (PBL) will help Indian badminton.
PBL is a great success. It brings top badminton to India, benefiting Indian players as well as viewers. Not only just competing against the top players but also being able to partner them and learn from them about the strategies of the matches, especially when it is a close match situation and the most important part of the game when you need a strong strategy.
Q: Tell us about your early days in badminton – where did you badminton journey start?
I started in Sutlej club in Ludhiana (my hometown) with my dad and it just got interesting each and every day. With the help of people I could have some good practice sessions and started playing tournaments. The transformation happened in Mumbai where I stayed for two years under Uday Pawar, and then it was 2008 when I joined Gopichand Badminton Academy and started competing on the international circuit.

I hope to break into Top 10 by the end of 2016: Akshay Dewalkar

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian men’s doubles player Akshay Dewalkar has been riding on a wave of impressive performances. The 27-year-old Mumbai lad was part of the national team that stunned China 3-2 in the recently-held Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad.

Akshay, who pairs up with Pranaav Jerry Chopra, had runners-up finish at the 2016 SAF Games in Guwahati. The pair of Akshay Dewalkar and Pranaav Jerry Chopra had a giant-killing run at the 2016 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow, where they scripted consecutive wins over higher ranked opponents.

Dewalkar who along with Chopra has been featuring in men’s doubles for the country since 2011 spoke about his game and much more in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.

Here are the excerpts:

Q. It must have been a ‘big high’ stunning China in the quarter-finals of the recently-concluded Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad before you guys went to beat Malaysia, but unfortunately, lost to Indonesia in the semifinals.

It was a great feeling to beat China (we won 3-2) as they are a formidable side. K Srikanth was in fine form winning his singles match and even Pranoy and Jayaram pull off wins. It’s a creditable achievement to reach the semifinals after we prevailed over Malaysia 3-2 before we lost to Indonesia 1-3. Pranav and I lost to Angga Pratama-Ricky Karanda Suwardi in the semifinals in the men’s doubles but overall India performed quite well.

Q. At the 2016 SAF Games in Guwahati, you lost to fellow Indians – Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy to settle for the silver medal.

Look, the competition at the 2016 SAF Games was not that stiff - we were expected to fare well and our performance was on expected lines.

Q. Indian badminton has two strong men’s doubles pairs – you and Pranaav Chopra and Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy. Do you think the presence of two robust doubles pairs creates healthy competition?

Healthy competition is always good for any player. Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy are doing well for the country and we are also trying to do our best for the country.

Q. BAI has appointed Malaysian Tan Kim Her as the country’s new doubles coach.

Tan Kim Her’s presence is really helping our doubles players. We are learning to strategize better and getting tips from him on how to reach to different situations during a match. All players are benefiting from his coaching.

Q. You and Pranaav had a fabulous run at the 2016 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold, where you upset three higher ranked opponents en route to reaching the final where you lost to Malaysia’s Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V Shem.

It was a superb tournament for us. We first accounted for the Indonesian world number 10 pair of A Pratama and R K Suwardi in the quarterfinals – subsequently we put it across the world number 8 Danish pair of M Conrad-Petersen and M P Kolding in the semifinals before we overwhelmed South Korean world number 7 pair of Kim Sa-rang and Kim Gi-Jung in the last four stage. Creating three upsets on the trot was a great feeling but unfortunately we came up short in the final.

Q. You and Pranaav Jerry Chopra are currently ranked 34 in the world. What goals do you have for 2016?

We will keep working hard and hope to break into the top-10 by 2016-end.

Q. The Premier Badminton League (PBL) was a great advertisement for Indian badminton. Your thoughts

It was great to see the league happen after a long gap. The matches were really exciting and spectators also loved every bit of the action. I’m sure PBL will enhance the popularity of badminton in the country.

Q. What are the areas you guys are looking to improve?

We want to focus on a lot of areas. We want to improve our net play as well as our court movements. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us and we will keep putting in the hard yards.

Q. As a men’s doubles pair, what do you think are your biggest strengths?

I think both of us are attacking players and that makes a lot of difference to the way we play. Our attacking game stands us in good stead at all times.

Need to be mentally tough: Ace woman archer Deepika Kumari

This interview was published in Sportskeeda

Indian archer Deepika Kumari is putting in all the hard yards in pursuit of winning an elusive medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and is a product of the Tata Archery Academy, which has played a pivotal role in shaping up her archery career.

Kumari, who missed out on a podium finish at the 2012 London Olympics, is more determined than ever before to stand on the podium in Rio.

She spoke to Sportskeeda about her medal aspirations at the 2015 Archery World Cup and her preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics in an exclusive interview.


Indian women have earned three quota places in the individual recurve event of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Are you certain of representing the country at the 2016 Olympics?

It is true that our women archers have bagged three quota places in the recurve event of the 2016 Rio Olympics, but all our women archers will be slugging it out in various selection trials to be held early next year before we know, who will represent India in the recurve event at Rio.

You had a fairly productive 2015 winning a medal at the Archery World Cup. How would you assess your overall performance in 2015?

There were disappointments at times but overall I’m pretty chuffed with my performance. My bronze medal in the Archery World Cup was hugely satisfying.

You have the experience of playing at the 2012 London Olympics under your belt. As you gear up to make your second Olympic appearance in Rio, do you think the London experience will stand you in good stead?

Absolutely! Obviously playing in the Olympics is a big thing, and I’m sure I will be richer with the experience when I go to the archery range in Rio.

Tell us a bit about the challenges of playing abroad as compared to playing in India.

In India, it really does not matter whether we are playing in summer or winter. But when we play in foreign countries, the weather is a big factor. Sometimes we continue playing even if it is raining heavily. At times, the strong wind can also affect our performance.

You came from a financial disadvantaged family – you parents slogged a lot to support your archery career.

Yeah, my parents has done a lot to support my archery passion. They want me to win an Olympic medal, which I hope to attain in Rio.

Your archery career really took shape when you joined the Tata Archery Academy. How much of your success you owe it to them?

I owe everything to the Tata Archery Academy. Without their support I would have not been able to achieve whatever I have done for the country so far.

Indian archers have been consistently winning medals in World Championships but do you think an Olympic medal is a must for the future of Indian archery?

Indian archery needs a medal-winning performance at the Olympics – if we can win an Olympic medal the sport will get more respect in the country and more youngsters will take up archery.

Every archer looks to improve all the time. What is that one thing you would like to work on?

I think I’m mentally weak – I need to work on my mental toughness.

There was a feeling that you like to stay away from the media. Your thoughts.

To be honest, I’m not comfortable handling the media. It’s not that I don’t like to talk to the media but it is just that I’m not at ease with the press.

Finally, how realistic are you about winning a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics?

It will be tough for sure. We competed among top 100 nations to qualify for the Olympics, where top archers from 16 nations are going to take part. The competition will be fierce and I have to give my best shot in Rio and land a medal for my country.

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