World championship bronze medallist PV Sindhu easily claimed her second national title in three years at the 78th ATS Senior National Badminton championship that ended this past Monday. But it was 17-year-old Rituparna Das’ run to the summit clash that will please badminton lovers across the country.
Unlike the new breed of Indian badminton players who rely on speed and stamina to bulldoze their opponents, Rituparna’s style of play has been modelled on the more traditional Indian style of building a point through a toss-drop routine that concentrates on out-foxing her opponent rather than out-lasting them in a battle of attrition and stamina.
It is precisely why the girl from Haldia in West Bengal caught everyone’s attention when she won the mini-nationals (u-13) in 2008 in Patna with her precise court coverage and the quality of her strokes, prompting chief national coach Pullela Gopichand to immediately invite her to train at his Hyderabad-based academy.
Rituparna joined the Gopichand Badminton Academy a year later but within a few years doubts were raised about her ability to make it big on the international stage.
Gopichand himself had started losing patience with the youngster and once told this correspondent that “she was too lazy to succeed at the highest level.”
Unlike the Sainas (Nehwal) and Sindhus, who would work extremely hard day in and day out at the academy to perfect their strokes and game plan, picking up new strokes came rather easily to Rituparna and that meant that the youngster would rarely work hard during training and it looked like she was happy dominating players in her age group and wasn’t hungry enough for bigger success.
This approach meant that Rituparna would reach the business end of the tournaments and then fall to a much fitter G Ruthvika Shivani or someone else. There was a general view among her opponents that if they pushed her by not giving her easy points at the start of the match, she may lose steam and not work hard enough for victory.
Rituparna herself admits that she is extremely lazy and gets a lot of flak from Gopichand during training. However, the girl from West Bengal was also suffering from home sickness as she felt all alone in Hyderabad.
This situation changed once her mother Ananya decided to shift base to Hyderabad and rented a flat there to stay with her daughter. Rituparna now looks more focused during training and the results are beginning to fall in place.
A month ago, she bagged the double crown in the Junior national badminton championship in Chandigarh and literally toyed with Ruthvika Shivani throughout their 23 minute encounter.
In the senior nationals, Rituparna is proving that she no longer lacks the stomach to fight as she showed the tenacity and patience to get the better of fourth seed Tanvi Lad and defending champion Sayali Gokhale to reach her maiden senior national final.
No one would have given Rituparna even an outside chance to upset Sindhu in the final but the junior national champion ensured that the summit clash was not a one-sided affair. On quite a few occasions, she managed to catch Sindhu wrong footed and even drew applause from the crowd for her craft.
On Monday, she showed that she has the quality to match the best. It will be interesting to see how and when she starts conquering them.
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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2013 15:33:43 IST