Nagpur: Seventeen-year-old BM Rahul Bharadwaj won arguably the biggest match of his career so far when he beat former world No 19 RMV Gurusaidutt in three games in the second round of the badminton senior national championships on Saturday.
In a match that lasted an hour and 10 minutes, Bharadwaj beat Gurusaidutt, a player 10 years older than him, at his own game – rallying. The Bengaluru teenager perhaps benefitted from the fact that Gurusaidutt has only recently started playing regularly following a long injury layoff.
However, that should take nothing away from the performance of the Prakash Padukone Academy trainee, who booked his place in round three of his second senior Nationals with a hard-fought 27-25, 18-21, 21-14 win.
Bharadwaj started the first game well, engaging Gurusaidutt in long rallies and bossing the net play. He held an 18-13 lead in the first game before Gurusaidutt started to play a bit more safely and induced a few errors off Bharadwaj to level the scores at 20-20.
Neither player was willing to let up, before Bharadwaj eventually managed to win two points in a row and take the first game 27-25 after over 20 minutes of play. The excitement of having a one-game lead against a top senior player perhaps got the better of the 17-year-old in the second, though, as Gurusaidutt opened up an early lead and maintained it throughout, thereby forcing a decider.
In the third game, however, Bharadwaj was back on the ground as he took the attack to Gurusaidutt, converting an early 6-2 lead to 11-5 at the interval. Gurusaidutt tried his best to recover but committed one too many errors at the net, eventually conceding the game and match.
Bharadwaj once again provided a glimpse of his bottomless tank of fuel in this match. At the India Junior International Grand Prix in September, he had played seven matches in four days, including two back-to-back three-gamers, to reach the final, where he lost to the junior world No 1 Kunlavut Vitidsarn.
“Before coming here, I had trained well and worked hard on my fitness, so I was comfortable playing the third game,” Bharadwaj said after the match, before admitting that he had erred by starting slowly in the second game to allow Gurusaidutt back in the match.
“I started the first and third games well. In the second, I started a bit slow so he got into a good lead after the break, when he started playing fast. I was just not able to catch up. In the third game, I was able to start well and continue that throughout. I was able to play my strokes and was more confident,” he added.
One of Bharadwaj’s travelling coaches from the Padukone academy, Sagar Chopda, said that the youngster also needs to learn how to keep his emotions in check. After Bharadwaj won the first game, he threw his racket down and looked quite excited, perhaps losing some focus.
“The only thing I told him was that you have to control your emotions,” said Chopda. “He started breathing heavily [after the first game] with that excitement of beating a higher-ranked player. There itself he lost four points and he was down 6-2 and could never catch up.”
Overall, Chopda thinks Bharadwaj played a really good match, especially with the patience he showed against an opponent who played in the same style as him. “This win should give him confidence of playing higher-ranked players,” Chopda said.
Other main results (seeds in brackets):
Prashi Joshi beat Riya Pillai  21-18, 21-11
Harshit Aggarwal  beat Riku Khape 21-12, 21-10
Mugdha Agrey  beat Ananya Goel 21-18, 21-16
Rahul Yadav C  beat Saurav Kapoor 21-19, 21-10
Lakshya Sen  beat Abhishek Kulkarni 21-13, 22-20
Aakarshi Kashyap  beat Teenu Dahiya 21-6, 21-6
Ruthvika Shivani Gadde beat Unnati Bisht 21-13, 21-13
Maisnam Meiraba beat Alap Mishra  21-8, 21-15