Sitting up in the stands with earphones plugged in and not much else for company,Nikhil Kanetkars wait for his delayed match on Saturday was long and lonely. Sunday mornings wait was spent looking on from the sidelines.
Kanetkar,Indias top bet in Athens a little more than four years ago,was part of the players-administration rift of 2007,but as the others are back on track and giving Indian badminton a reason for hope,the Pune player seems to have stayed stuck in the mire.
Away from the international circuit for almost a year now,Kanetkars hope of getting back to peak form and fitness was also cut short this season. I had hoped to play the domestic tournaments this season and get back into top shape,but there has been just one national tournament before this one, he says,talking to The Indian Express on the sidelines of the senior nationals.
At the Doha Asian Games in 2006,Anup Sridhar and Aravind Bhat were nominated as Indias singles players,with Kanetkar being made to play just team matches though his international performances had always been on par. Kanetkar accepts there was no cause for complaint for him there. I had been playing the whole year and wasnt in peak fitness then.
Then came the rift with national coach P Gopichand. Kanetkar says dropping down from his world No 41 in May 2007 to outside the top 100 once he was asked to stop playing,cut his flight short. It was highly disappointing when you couldnt play despite paying for your travel yourself, Kanetkar says.
He started this tournament with an easy win over Andhra Pradeshs M Prashant Reddy in the second round,having had a bye in the first. But the 15th seed was obviously out of practice,going out 21-11 21-19 to Railways Dinesh T in on Sunday. Not the perfect setting for a player who was once seen as the countrys best hope after Gopichand.
Kanetkar also played for German club BC Saarbrucken Bischmishiem for almost four years, but that show-stopping performance in India colours stayed elusive. I was lucky to have been able to win and do well for almost 10 years. There are more things I wouldve wanted,but I choose not to be frustrated with how my career has gone, Kanetkar says.