Trailing 21-22 in the second game and down a match point against current U-15 national champion Tukum Laa of Arunachal Pradesh, Jayant Rana looked towards his father Vinod Kumar in the stands.
Vinod, a primary teacher at a government school in Sonepat, just gestured his son to stay calm and concentrate on his returns.
A slow return by Rana took Laa by surprise and the Haryana shuttler bounced back to take the second game 24-22. Rana stormed through the decider 21-9 to win the first round U-19 boys’ singles match at the 26th Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking and Prize Money Badminton Tournament at Panjab University.
“My father says I am in primary section and would graduate to high school level when I win in U-19 and senior categories,” says Rana.
While some players in the championship have come with their coaches, Rana’s elder cousin acts as his coach on the court with Kumar watching the matches keenly. Rana won his first national title at the U-13 ranking tournament in Tirupur in 2014 followed by the U-13 doubles title with Vikas Yadav at the Sub-Junior Nationals in Visakhapatnam in 2015. This year has seen Rana winning the U-15 singles title in the ranking tournament in Jaipur and a silver medal in Coimbatore.
Uttarakhand’s Dhruv Rawat came to the tournament without any coach or family member. But the 16-year-old from Pandekhola village near Almora did not let that hamper him during his 23-21, 21-16 win over local lad Talwinder Singh in the boys’ U-19 first round. Rawat, who is the top-ranked player in the U-17 national rankings, has been training at the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru for the last one year and won an U-17 title in Chennai in August, apart from reaching the final in Trivandrum.
“At Almora, we have only two courts and most of the time we would wait for our turn which meant more time spent on warming up. A good performance here would set things up for me for next month’s junior nationals in Guwahati,” shared Rawat.