Siddharth Pratap Singh had never played a tournament in Europe before but after Sunday he will want to play more. The 19-year-old from Raipur won the Swedish Open International Series badminton tournament on Sunday, beating Denmark’s Mads Christophersen 21-15, 21-11 in the final.
Not only was this Singh’s first tournament outside Asia, but it was also the first time he had ever played in a final – at national or international level. Last year, Singh’s best achievement in an international tournament was a quarter-final exit – two times, and both those events were in India. He played two tournaments – Series and Challenge level – in Indonesia but exited in the first round itself.
While a tournament in Europe does not have the same level of players as one in Asia, reaching a final in his first attempt and actually winning it would have done wonders to the youngster’s confidence. “I’m very happy,” Singh said. “Everyone, my coaches at the Prakash Padukone Academy, my family and my friends are thrilled.”
Singh, whose world rank is 211, almost lost in the first round itself to Denmark’s Patrick Bjerregaard (ranked 688) before coming through 21-23, 23-21, 21-15. “I was very nervous as it was my first match in Europe. I lost the first game but managed to fight back,” he said.
After that initial hiccup, it was relatively smooth sailing for the Raipur lad as he won his remaining four matches in straight games. His biggest scalp came in the second round when he beat world No 104 Sergey Sirant 21-15, 21-9. Sirant had won the Russia Open Grand Prix last year. After coming through that match, there was no stopping him.
“What I liked most about his performance in this tournament was that he improved with every match,” said Umendra Rana, a coach from the Padukone academy who was with Singh in Sweden. “He did not panic when his opponents were attacking and was not interested in taking charge of the match. He waited for them to make errors to win points and that worked for him.”
Singh believes his success was a result of a combination of three things going well – his fitness and movement on court, a fixed diet and proper water intake, and adequate rest.
“It was very cold in Sweden – around -1°C to -2°C – so I did longer warm-up sessions before the match so that my body was ready,” he said. “Because of that, I was able to move well. I have also been working on my fitness in training.”
Asked about his diet, Singh said that being off oily Indian food in Sweden did him wonders. “I was having things like grilled chicken and pasta every day, so my diet did not change and that helped me. There were Indian restaurants but I chose to maintain a fixed diet after consulting with my coach.”
Rana said that Singh is a very sincere boy and follows whatever his coaches tell him. “His stamina is very good and he is one of the fittest boys at the academy,” he added.
Singh’s next challenge will be at the Iceland International – also a Series level tournament – in Reykjavik before he comes back home for the India Open qualifiers. The 19-year-old couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year and he would be hoping to carry the momentum forward.