Immediately after 16-year-old Aditi Bhatt beat fifth seed Nivetha M 21-17, 21-17 to enter the quarterfinals of the girls’ Under-19 singles of the Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Badminton Tournament organised by Express Shuttle Club Trust at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, she got on the phone to inform her father about the result. Being unseeded in the U-19 category, Aditi had pulled off an upset and understandbly she was keen to inform her father about the progress she had made.
Aditi’s father Manoj is a former Mahindra and Mahindra footballer and a 1991 Santosh Trophy winner from Maharashtra. Manoj wanted Aditi to take up a sport. He knew her choice when, even before she became a teenager, she asked him to buy her a badminton racquet as a birthday present. Manoj keenly follows the progress of his daughter on the badminton courts.
“I still remember it was my birthday and I asked my father to get me a badminton racquet. As a former footballer, he wanted me to pursue sports but never forced me to take up any particular sport. My elder brother plays football too but my father is always more interested in getting updates from my matches. Today was also the same and I hope I can give him more updates about my wins this week,” shared Bhatt.
Originally hailing from Ranikhet, Uttrakhand, the Bhatt family shifted their base to Delhi after the senior Bhatt’s playing career got over. While Aditi would initially train at Delhi, the youngster decided to shift to Almora to train at SAI Centre in 2014.
The youngster’s first national title would come in the form of doubles, when she partnered with Delhi’s Aashi Rawat to win the U-15 title in a junior ranking tournament in Delhi in 2015. The youngster would win the silver medal in SGFI national school games in 2016 before playing in the Asian Junior badminton Championships last year, where she lost in second round.
It was around this time that Aditi decided to partner with Dubai-based Tanisha Crasto. She and Tanisha won the singles U-17 title, apart from the doubles title at the junior ranking tournament in Nagpur in July this year. One week later, Aditi claimed the silver medal in the U-17 singles event in a junior ranking tournament in Hyderabad, apart from winning the U-17 doubles title with Crasto. Last week also saw the pair competing in their first U-19 ranking tournament in Chandigarh and they won the title defeating eighth seed Preeti K and Priya Devi in the final.
“When I decided to shift to Almora to train, my mother Poonam insisted that she too will accompany me. Initially, I faced some difficulty as there was a difference in altitude and sometimes, I would get my turn to train after two hours as there are only two courts there. It was the same time that my interest in doubles also grew and playing with Tanisha has made me realise my weak points in singles as well. Winning the doubles titles in Nagpur and Hyderabad, apart from winning the singles title in Nagpur, gave me a lot of confidence. The U-19 category title win in Chandigarh last week also meant a lot for us,” shared Bhatt.
Earlier this year, the youngster was inducted into Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru and currently trains under two-time national champion Sayali Gokhale. The coach believes that it is a crucial phase in Bhatt’s career and she still has time to decide about her doubles strategy.
“Aditi currently has the disadvantage of being relatively short but she counters that with a variety of strokes and uses the drop shots wisely. In the doubles events too, she displays the same attitude and while Tanisha is the one, who has the more attacking style of play, Aditi manages to hold the key and controls the game often at crucial points. Her success in U-17 singles also reflects in doubles and the next 2-3 years will be crucial in her career as she turns senior,” says Gokhale.
Back home in Delhi, father Manoj is keeping his fingers crossed. “She has won more medals than I did in my career. But as a father, I don’t want her to stop at this,” he says.