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Rising star

Another Hyderabadi courts success

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In Pusarla Venkata Sindhu's family, sports often makes for dinner table conversation. That's hardly surprising considering everyone in her family has represented India in sports. While parents - PV Ramana and P Vijaya - played volleyball, elder sister Divya, who just completed her MBBS, was in India's netball team. PV Sindhu took to the badminton court, where she is making a mark for herself. 

The seventeen-year-old, who stands tall at 5 ft 10 inch, is currently ranked 20 in the Badminton World Federation's (BWF) rankings. Sindhu owes her career-best ranking to her performances in the international tournaments in the last couple of years, making her perhaps the fastest rising shutter in the world. The spectacular show she put up in the recently held China Masters Super Series made the world get up and take notice of her.

In fact, many badminton experts and watchers are already comparing the teenaged Hyderabadi to the city's other more famous badminton name, Saina Nehwal. But Sindhu says she has miles to go.

"Saina has done really well all alone at the international level. We all are very proud about her achievements. We do play sometimes at the Pullela Gopichand Academy. I manage to score 16 or 17 points against her during our practice matches. Nowadays, we rarely play against each other. Sometimes she is busy playing tournaments and sometimes I am away. Besides Gopi Sir, there are many good players at the academy with whom I practice, " says Sindhu, who too trains at the Gopichand Academy in Gachibowli. Before her parents bought a house near the academy, Sindhu would travel 27 km every day to train at the academy.

"It was quite tough. Travelling so much to reach the academy for practice and then attending school. I would often stay at the academy to avoid the long commute. Now, life has become a little easy as it is barely a five-minute drive from my home, " says Sindhu, a first year B. Com student.

The long hours that Sindhu has put in have been showing results. In the quarterfinals of the recently held China Masters Super Series, Sindhu shocked London Olympics gold medallist Li Xuerui in three games but another Chinese, Jiang Yanjiao, put a stop to her winning run. "I had a golden chance to win. At 19-19 in the decider, I made two errors. It would have been great if I had managed to win that match, " says Sindhu.

Recalling her sensational 21-19, 9-21, 21-16 win over Xuerui, Sindhu admits she didn't expect to win. "I did not expect to beat her. I just decided to give my best and hope for the best. I won and I was very happy, " she says and adds that she is hoping to win an Olympic medal in Brazil in 2016.

If she continues to play the way she is, breaking into the top-10 may just be a matter of time. "I aim to break into the top-15 first and then into the top-10 in another six months time. The going will be tough from here. I need to work harder and keep my focus. If I keep myself injury free, I am confident of reaching my goals. Practice is very important. I need to improve all the time, " explains Sindhu, who has several national junior and senior titles to her credit.
On her future plans, the teenager says she will follow the advice of her coach Pullela Gopichand, "Gopi Sir normally decides the tournaments I should play in. I will compete in a few Super Series events this year. He is huge influence in my life. He is very disciplined and dedicated. Every day, he reaches academy 10 minutes before our first session. "

Sindhu's regime is pretty gruelling too. "My day starts quite early. Our first practice session starts at 4. 30 am. It lasts for a couple of hours. After breakfast, we have another gruelling session. The morning sessions get over by 12. 30 pm. Then after lunch, I sleep for around an hour-and-a-half. "

The evening session takes place between 4 pm and 6 pm, dinner is at 8 pm and Sindhu hits the bed before 10.

Sindhu began playing badminton when she was eight and believes it can become India's No. 1 sport in the coming years. "Cricket is very popular in India but badminton could become the country's favourite sport. We have so many talented players who can do well at the international level - Saina, Parupalli Kashyap, Verma brothers - Sourabh and Sameer, Ajay Jayaram, Arundhati Pantawane, Ruthvika Shivani, Rituparna Das, Rasika Raje. We can now challenge the Chinese and hunt in batches, " she says.

Sindhu adds that she owes a lot to her family. Her parents accompany her to all tournaments. "In India, whenever she goes for a tournament, my wife or I accompany her. When she is playing abroad, Gopi Sir travels with her, " says father Ramana who along with his wife accompanied Sindhu to the recently concluded National Badminton Championships in Srinagar.

Sindhu, who won the title last year, lost to Sayali Gokhale in the final this year.

A centre blocker of repute, Ramana represented India in volleyball for several years. "Apart from representing the country, I played 20 senior nationals, 19 for the Indian Railways and one for Andhra Pradesh. After the birth our first daughter Divya, we both stopped playing volleyball, " he says.

"As a centre blocker, I had a dual role - defence as well as attack. It was a key post in the volleyball team. The same applies in life too. The roles might have changed but my responsibilities remain the same. I want to see my daughter at the top of the badminton world, " says Ramana.

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