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Beyond Nehwal,state girls chant never say never

Not all answers are to be found in smashes and flicks on a badminton court,so Aditi Mutatkar leafs through books galore.


July 15, 2009 4:09:57 am

Not all answers are to be found in smashes and flicks on a badminton court,so Aditi Mutatkar leafs through books galore. “People keep asking me why I’m always drowned in a book despite being a badminton player,a sportsman,as if the two don’t go together! It’s just my way of dealing with life – I like reading,that’s what inspires me,” said the 22-year-old who is grappling with a dodgy knee,and prefers the written word to the spoken gyaan coming her way from all and sundry,during this testing period of her career. There’s the usual favourite – Lance Armstrong,and also double Olympic medallist Kelly Holmes of Great Britain who shrugged off multiple injuries to run the most memorable races of her life,and then sat down to tell her tale with a flourish.

“It’s sad when injuries happen just when you are doing well. It pulls you down psychologically,” said the World No 31 – and India’s No 2 after Saina Nehwal,maintaining an ultra-positive disposition. “I don’t really have a choice,right?” she added while in town last weekend for the Tata Open. Mutatkar hates making an excuse out of the presently delicate knee,but the crucial body-joint is literally rendering India’s challenge weak at international events as the shuttler struggles to move into the next rung.

A withdrawal,midway through her match during the recent Far East tour was no recurrence of a knee trouble – but her feared demons had returned. “It wasn’t a great outing and I need to get away from the fear. Soon after I came back I spoke to my doctor and coach,and it’s evident that the problem’s in the mind,” said the Pune shuttler candidly. “It’ll take time to be pain-free,but after consulting them I know nothing worse can happen just by playing. I’m less scared now that I know it won’t break!” she added.

Two surgeries,and as many comebacks to the court later,Mutatkar knows she has to deal with the assortment of pain,loss of form and ranking and at times suddenly-plunging confidence. At Mumbai,nothing little to script – the top-seed exited the competition in the quarters,but her slow return to full-fitness continues. “If I can get 2-3 injury-free seasons,things should be back on track. If,with two surgeries,the ranking’s 31,I’m sure if I stay healthy I can do better,” she said.

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Beyond the brave-talk is some solid strength-work to be done – muscling up the quadraceps and hamstring to ensure the knee doesn’t give way again. And a few court-adjustments too. “I’ll need to re-think the lunging – increase my steps – take 3 instead of 2,and put less pressure on knee. I’ve been apprehensive on my forehand. And since I’m a retriever,I’ll need to find a way to make rallies shorter,and work on where I place the shuttle.”

The ultimate word of encouragement came from national coach P Gopichand – who had himself suffered from the anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) procedure. “He’s been in a similar situation and he insisted that I stay aggressive through it. He says some day you have to enter the court,you can’t hold back,” she added.

The next rung
Sayali Gokhale

The national champion,22,picked her second big All-India title of the season at the Tata Open and would want to build on her international credentials after picking her maiden title abroad – the Spanish Open this summer. A touch player,who has improved rapidly over the last few years on her mental strength,Gokhale has shown manifold commitment after her national title,but still needs to work on her power and stamina.

Trupti Murgunde
A classical player blessed with the deception on court,has been dogged by injuries through her career,and a back complication put her back by many ranking points and months,before she made a comeback some months ago,winning a lower grade title at Bahrain. A travelling physio might help the 26-year-old prevent the many injuries she is susceptible to,while stamina-work can help her last the rigours of the longer matches and push her ranking back into where it deserves.

Gayatri Vartak
The 20-year-old showed some spirit and gumption during an inter-petroleum sports board match earlier this year playing against Saina Nehwal. However she has plenty of work to do to in most aspects of her game,as she makes the transition from promising junior to a consistent senior.

Neha Pandit
Twice unlucky in the final at the Tata Open,Pandit,a pacy player with hitting as her forte,has shown she can hustle a few top players,but needs the mental strength to be able to finish off games and vary her game. Lack of international exposure has proved to be detrimental to her growth and the added experience might just help her add layers of finess to her game.

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