During her match against third seed Gayatri Gopichand, 17-year-old Malvika Bansod would often look to the coaches’ area, from where her parents Parbodh and Trupti were giving her instructions.
After the second-seeded Malvika completed a 21-11, 20-22, 21-15 win over her fancied opponent in the girls’ U-19 final of the Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Badminton Tournament, organised by Express Shuttle Club Trust, on Sunday, the youngster was given a warm hug by her parents, both dentists, before she went for her stretching exercises.
“I was always scared about operations and my parents never forced me to pursue medicine. Most of the time they are travelling with me and it means that their clinic has to be shut. So it’s the other way around and I have made them part-time badminton coaches,” Malvika laughed. “I often see my parents performing dental surgeries and when I execute my shots with precision, I am sure it gives them the same kind of satisfaction,” the winner of the N Harridass Trophy for the best girl player of the tournament added.
Coached at the Shakuntala Makode Badminton Academy in Nagpur, where she joined in 2011, Malvika won the U-13 title at the Maharastra State Championships in 2013, and went on to win the U-15, U-17 and U-19 titles the following years.
Her first final appearance at a national junior ranking tournament came at Gulbarga in 2015, when she lost to Gayatri. Last year, the youngster won the U-19 title at the Junior ranking tournament in Chennai, and reached the final at the India Junior International in Pune. She also won the U-17 title at the Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Badminton Tournament.
After that win last year, Malvika became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 at last year’s Senior Nationals in Nagpur, where a loss against Sriyanshi prevented a possible quarter-final clash against Saina Nehwal. The youngster also became the youngest Indian after Nehwal and PV Sindhu to win a senior ranking tournament when she won in Bareilly in January this year.
“I often remember my score sheets from previous matches and the draw of tournaments. The wins in Chennai and Chandigarh last year gave me confidence ahead of the senior Nationals and even though I could not face Saina didi in the quarters, seeing them compete on the same courts meant a lot for me. The win in Bareilly also helped me understand the game and strategy required at the senior level and I hope to win more such tournaments to get a chance to compete against Saina didi once,” says the youngster, who idolises 20018 Asian Games champion and current world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying.
Junior world championship
The twin wins in Chandigarh and Panchkula mean the youngster has almost secured her berth in the Indian team for the junior world championships in Canada in November.
“Both of us want to see her win and even though it means shutting our clinic for a week or so, nothing gives us more joy than seeing Malvika win. Sometimes, we get nervous during matches but she is the one who calms us down,” Trupti said.
It was also the sixth time in the last two years that Malvika had faced Gayatri in an U-17 or U-19 tournament and the Maharastra youngster leads 4-2 against daughter of the chief national coach.
Coach Kiran Makode considers Malvika’s understanding of the game as her biggest strength. “When Malvika came to train, her grip and footwork were not correct. She had a range of good strokes and is an aggressive player but sometime, she used to suffer a form slump in the second or third game. With time, she has learnt to control the pace of the game. If she can continue playing without fear, she can have a smooth transition to the senior level,” said Makode.