On 23 December 2013, World Championships bronze medallist PV Sindhu was to take on 17-year-old Rituparna Das for the National title. It was expected to be a lopsided affair with the 2011 senior national champion winning her second title in three years.
The final score read 21-11, 21-17 in favour of Sindhu but the match was anything but a one-sided affair. The scoreline might not reflect on the performance of the young shuttler who impressed with her grit and talent.
A lot was expected from the Haldia-born Rituparna, but her career has been marred by inconsistencies ever since then.
The under-13 champion in 2008 earned everyone's attention with her style of play including that of Pullela Gopichand who facilitated her move from West Bengal to train at his Hyderabad-based academy.
However, things weren't going right for Rituparna whose biggest drawback was the tag of being lazy that got stuck to her since her Junior days. It is said that even Gopichand was miffed at the way she approached her career and found her too lazy to succeed at the highest level.
This approach also saw her fumbling in the finals of the various national and international tournaments.
Rituparna, who is considered to be the best shuttler in the second rung of players has also constantly struggled with her fitness.
In 2016, things started looking bright for the 21-year-old who won a couple of Badminton World Federation(BWF) International Challenge/Series, the India International Series and the Polish International. These wins helped her gain important points that held her in good stead when it was time for World Championships qualification.
Earlier this year, in February, Rituparna finally managed to get past the finish line — She went from being a two-time runner up at the Senior National Badminton Championships to lifting the trophy, when the second seed defeated Reshma Karthik in straight sets.
Rituparna finally put an end to the claims of her being a talented but lethargic opponent to make improvements in her style and becoming a big-game player.
In 2017, Rituparna who started with a BWF rank of 63, also reached her highest rank of 44.
Her best result in this year's international tournaments was the quarter-final appearance at the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold in January.
2017 also saw Rituparna playing her first ever Superseries tournament at the India Open where she lost in the round of 16 to Olympic champion Carolina Marin.
In the tournaments that followed, she had first-round exits in the Singapore Open Superseries, Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold and Canada Open. In the recently concluded US Open, she progressed to the second round where she went down fighting to seventh seed Dane Natalia Rohde.
Apart from these events, she was also part of the Premier Badminton League, where she was a part of table toppers Awadhe Warriors.
This continued international exposure will do the World No 46 a whole lot of good when she takes on World No 54 Airi Mikkela at the World Championships.
Having already defeated the Finnish shuttler once in 2012, a repeat performance at the World Championships will see her locking horns with 16th seeded Scottish shuttler Kirsty Gilmour.
For Rituparna, the India No 2, it will not be easy to come out of the shadow of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, two of the most celebrated women shuttlers in India.
A good run at the World Championships will be an opportunity to do so.
With the men's division of Indian badminton growing from strength to strength, the World Championships provides the women's division a opportunity and the stage to make themselves counted. Pressing the accelerator is the need of the hour and they will need to up the ante big time on the grandest of stages.
Updated Date: Aug 16, 2017 17:33:28 IST