The national badminton juniors had eluded her all these years,so there was a sense of satisfaction when Tanvi Lad cornered it in her final year in the juniors. The 18-year-old beat Saili Rane – an opponent for all of her teenage years – 21-17,21-16 in the finals of the Junior Nationals at Jaipur from February 8-12. Having ticked this box,the city girl,though has been handed lessons in tenacity when she lost her match to aditi Mutatkar at the Senior Nationals in Bangalore.
In the coming year,Lad will play on fewer days on the sparseseniors circuit,but significantly tougher matches now. In this interview with Sportsline,the spunky girl speaks of the tribulations of chasing that elusive juniors crown as well as the demands that will be made on her as she makes the full-time transition from juniors to seniors.
What does this Juniors title mean to you?
It was pending for a long time. I’d won All-India titles before,but this one had eluded me. This was the last year of my junior career,so I needed to win it this time. I’d missed the National Juniors last year because of a stress fracture; the year before that it was some other mishap. It had become a sort of a jinx.
How will you describe the final?
I’ve been playing against Saili (Rane) since our u-13 days. I was expecting a tough match,because we’ve always played good matches when facing each other. My coach Uday Pawar was sitting for my matches,so I could effect the tactical corrections he suggested,immediately,so that was an advantage. In the match,I was leading throughout and had gone up 13-7 in the first game. She came up to 13-all,but I managed to regain the lead. What helped me win was my retrieval and ability to keep more shuttles in play,and the fact that I was a steadier player on that day.
How challenging do you reckon will be the transition from juniors to seniors?
I have been playing on the Seniors circuit for a while,so I’m getting used to the challenges. Essentially the difference is that players at that level are more experienced and mature. Tactically they are stronger. Also,they don’t spare you once they have you in their grasp. There are matches in juniors,where you fall back and still pull off a win. But it becomes very difficult at the top level in seniors. Recently I played against Aditi Mutatkar at the Senior Nationals,where I led 17-10 in the third game. I lost that match 23-21 – lost a match I should have won. But I’d been unduly hasty and suffered defeat because of that. I should’ve been steady.
How different will your Seniors competition calendar look now that you’ve crossed the u-19 circuit?
The seniors circuit nationally is quite staggered,and not as packed as the juniors calendar. I’ll start charting out a programme for the next year.
What are the significant changes needed when you make that jump from juniors to seniors?
Aspects like improving pace and power are like an ongoing process. Tactically you need to learn to play the right game at the right time. Coach’s son Anand has been playing on the international circuit for a while,so my coach knows what it takes to plan and play accordingly in the current scenario,and we’ll chart out a schedule of training and competition.
Rate yourself on a scale of 10 in these aspects.
Physical Fitness 8 on 10. Tactical sense 7 on 10. Mental fortitude 9 on 10. Perfection in preparation 8.5 on 10. Grasping coach’s inputs 8.5 on 10.
How did you celebrate the juniors title?
Several players from Uday Pawar’s academy did well at the junior nationals. Harsheel Dani won the u-17 title,and another pair of Kaushal Dharmamer and Vighnesh Devlekar made the doubles finals. So,we had a sort of a celebration dinner in Jaipur.
As a junior champ,does the prospect of competing against the Chinese in the future – near or distant – scare you? How do you view the challenge against the most dominant badminton nation?
Actually,if you watch them it doesn’t scare you anymore or seem so difficult. We’ve played a few of them at the Junior Asians and worlds,and no doubt they are very good. But Indians have been able to compete with them. Also,it wouldn’t help to look at it as an uphill task,and one without hope.
What’s striking about the Chinese is their pace and aggression and ability to retrieve. They are like rubber bands,and have the sharpest strokes and hardest smashes.
Are academics a huge juggle?
I’m studying in FYBCom,and currently prepping for the finals. The new semester system makes it more difficult with continuous assignments demanding attention as much as competitions.
Who are your role-models?
Rafael Nadal’s a big hero. I relate to him in the sense that I too enjoy training very hard and pushing the limits. In badminton,it’s the face of Indian badminton – Saina Nehwal. I really admire her mental tenacity and ability to retrieve.
What are your goals for the next 2-3 years?
One step at a time. First I need to plan out my training. I’ll definitely work on my international ranking which is currently 150. I want to eventually make it to the Top-10,but realistically that will take another 3-4 years. It’s a long journey.