While the focus of the media and the badminton loving crowd in Lucknow at the 2012 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament was only on world number three Saina Nehwal, an unassuming 16-year-old playing in only her second senior international tournament was very easy to miss.
Answering to the name of G Ruthvika Shivani, the youngster hardly shows any emotions when on court. And if you are not there especially to watch her play then there are chances that you would hardly notice when she came, played and left as there is no war cry after winning a big point or over the top celebrations after winning a title.
The soft spoken youngster had been dominating the junior circuit since P V Sindhu graduated to the senior circuit and has been winning medals in a heap.
At the recently concluded junior nationals, Ruthvika won the girls U-17 and U-19 singles titles and the u-19 doubles crown to add to the double crown she had won at the Sushant Chipalkatti memorial junior international meet in Pune a few weeks ago.
In the last few months there have been no challengers to Ruthvika on the domestic junior circuit. But it is her performance in the two senior tournaments that has proved to all that she is the next star in the making.
In her first ever appearance in the senior internationals, Ruthvika accounted for second seed Neha Pandit in the opening round of the Tata Open International challenge in Mumbai last week and as if to prove that the victory was no fluke, she hunted down P C Thulasi, the women’s singles winner in Mumbai, in the first round of the Syed Modi tournament.
The first round victories may not mean a lot in terms of international performance, but for the girl from Khammam in Andhra Pradesh it is just a start.
Ruthvika took up badminton as a summer vacation sport at the age of seven and started training seriously a year later when Sudhakar Reddy was appointed the coach at the the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh centre.
Since then the classic badminton strokes have been a constant ally of Ruthvika, who had been making up for the lack of strength at the junior circuit with her exceptional court coverage and a steady approach.
The daughter of a small time businessman in Khammam was soon the talk of the badminton circuit and currently boasts of over 70 domestic and international medals, including the Asian u-15 silver medal in 2011.
But the real rise of Ruthvika began once she moved to the Gopichand Academy about six months back for better training facilities.
“There is no doubt about her abilities. But she was not very strong and it made sense for her to shift to the Gopichand Academy for better training facilities,” says Sudhakar Reddy, whose other two students – K Nandagopal and K Srikant – also train at the Gopichand Academy.
And the results were immediate. In the last few tournaments, Ruthvika has literally decimated her closest challenger, Rituparna Das, every time they met in the finals of any age group tournament and has also shown the strength and stamina to match her much elder opponents at the Tata Open and the Syed Modi international.
There is no doubt that she would need to add much more mass to challenge the bigwigs in world badminton. But if the performance in her first two senior international tournaments is any indication, people would soon be flocking especially watch her play in the near future.