The 2015 Senior National Championship runners-up, who is now looking ahead to the upcoming 2016 edition in Chandigarh starting April 6, spoke about his meteoric rise and much more in an exclusive interview.
Q. You were ranked 262 at the start of 2015 and you have now soared into the top-50 reaching a ranking of 35 in the first few months of 2016. How would you sum up your impressive run in last one year or so?
I always look to raise the performance bar and the fact that I steered clear of nagging injuries helped me to play consistently and move up the ranking ladder.
Q. What is that one factor that helped to perform so consistently – you have won three tournaments in last few months– back-to-back crowns in Bahrain, followed by the Tata Open title?
As I said earlier it really helped that I was able to stay injury-free during his period and that allowed me to train hard and perform at my best. Of course, I’m more focused than ever before – all these things really helped to bring about marked improvement in my game. As you know getting injured is never a good thing as you spent a lot of time in rehab and you can’t be at the peak of your powers on a comeback trail.
Q. How was it like beating your elder brother Sourabh in the final of the Tata Open in Mumbai?
I took up badminton after watching him play. Sourabh is not just my elder brother, but also my mentor, guide and friend – all rolled into one. We share a lot of things and share a great bond.
Q. Your elder brother was in the top-30 for a long time but seems to be struggling to string together consistent wins. Your thoughts.
Sourabh is a talented player – it is just that he had endured prolonged injuries last year like elbow and knee injuries, which really dented his game. He was not able to play regularly in the international circuit and hence his rankings also suffered. I’m sure he will bounce back sooner than later.
Q. How satisfying was it winning the back-to-back singles crowns in Bahrain last year?
I have fond memories of annexing the Bahrain International Badminton Challenge at Isa Town. I upset top seed Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam in the quarterfinals. It was a down-to-the-wire contest – I had lost the first game 17-21 but came back hard to level things winning the second game at 21-14 before winning the decider 21-9.
Q. Now that you are ranked 35 in the world, how do you intend to climb further up?
Look, moving up the ranking ladder takes a lot of effort but staying there is even tougher. I would look to stay consistent and strive to break into the top-10 by 2016-end.
Q. Every shuttler looks to improve – what will be your focus areas in terms of raising the performance bar?
I believe I need to be stronger mentally. Of course, there is no full stop to learning and I’m going to keep working in all aspects of my game.
Q. Which has been the most memorable singles win on the international circuit so far?
I had some great wins in recent months but my win over China’s Wang Zhengming in the second round of the Swiss Open. I won in straight games 21-19, 22-20 has to be my best career win so far. Of course, I also upset Hong Kong’s Hu Yun in the first round of the All England Championship, but my victory over Wang was special.
Q. Tell us a bit about your family?
I hail from Dhar township which is near Indore in Madhya Pradesh. My father, who happens to be my first coach, works in the Narmada Valley Development Authority, while my mother is a housewife.