It can be intimidating to be hailed as the future of Indian badminton but young shuttler Aditi Bhatt, who has produced some good results in the past few months, is trying to steer clear of the pressure by focussing on her “strokes and stamina”.
The 18-year-old from Uttarakhand made heads turn when she took a game off world No.13 Busanan Ongbamrungphan during India’s clash with Thailand in the Uber Cup Final recently.
She lost the match in hard-fought three games but won a lot of hearts with her performance and many hailed her as someone who can bring the country laurels like star players Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu.
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“Sometimes, it can be intimidating when people say you are the future and we want to see you in the Olympics. People expect a lot from you but it’s fine, there is no pressure. I am going with the flow,” Aditi, who won two out of her four matches in Denmark, told PTI during an interaction.
“After winning two matches against higher ranked players (Ania Setien of Spain and Rachel Sugden of Scotland) I was confident but honestly I didn’t think I will be able to pull off a set. I was playing well and she was under pressure as she was playing a junior. It turned out to be a great match.
“My Instagram kept buzzing, even though I lost, my followers, everybody were messaging me, that feeling was massive. It was a confidence booster. I was getting so much appeciation.” She carried the confidence to Hungarian International championships, where she reached the finals.
Aditi made it to the Indian team for the Sudirman Cup and Uber Cup Final after coming through the selection trials and she says it was a huge learning experience.
“It was a dream come true moment when I got selected for the Sudirman Cup and Uber Cup,” said Aditi.
“I learnt a lot, just watching the seniors train, preparing before a match was a learning experience. All the seniors in the Indian team like Ashwini Ponnappa helped me a lot.” Her first match was against the Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei and Aditi said it gave her an idea on what she needs to work on to be successful in the senior circuit.
“I was both excited and nervous to play Chen. Her court movement and accuracy was superb. While I was running, she was walking around the court. I have to work on my footwork, stamina, accuracy and strokes really well.” It was winning an under-13 state championship as an 11-year-old that gave her the confidence that she would like to pursue sports but then came a phase when she couldn’t reach the finals of the under-12, under-13 and under-15 nationals.
“I got so demotivated, I thought of quitting and focus on studies but my parents were supportive. They pushed me and I won the U-17 national championship in 2018,” said Aditi, who shifted to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) academy in Almora to train under DK Sen in 2014.
“I shifted to the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in 2018 after coach Sen also moved there. I have been training there since.” She had a good run in 2019 when she won the U-19 singles and doubles titles in All India Ranking, reached the quarters at the World Junior Championship in Russia.
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She also won the doubles and reached the singles semifinals at the Dubai Junior International, claimed the doubles crown in the Bulgarian Junior International Championships.
She soon rose to number 10 in the World Junior rankings and was set to compete at the Dutch and German Open but an ankle injury scuttled her plans before COVID-19 disrupted the calender.
“I had an achilles’ heel injury. I was selected to play at Dutch and German junior but I ended up with three months rest and rehab,” she said.
“I didn’t play any event for a year and a half after that and the selection trials for the Thomas and Uber Cup and Sudirman Cup was my first event since the injury.”