I competed in the Open Bhuj Badminton tournament that was held last weekend at the club where I go for practice.
I was competing both in Men’s Singles and Doubles. While I barely had any exercise playing singles, I was kind of confident me and my partner had it in us to go deep in the other section. I was reluctant to play singles but it was mandatory for all members so I didn’t have much choice. The competition started and I refereed in a few matches. Comes with the territory of being a responsible member I guess, even if I myself say so.😝😝
My own matches had their fair share of drama. Let’s look at them.
CHAPTER 1 – Match 1 : Singles 1st Round —
I was up against a fellow member who happened to be a bit older and like me, had very little practice of the singles game. It was a 15-point best-of-three match. First game, I was way too nervous and caught up in my own desire to dominate leading to too many unforced errors. Serves either went wide or up in mid-court to be duly smashed. Returns didn’t fare any better. I still stretched the game to 14-all, only to lose straightaway.
The break before the 2nd game gave me some time to reflect on the unnecessary haste that had crept in the first one.
The score was 5-all or something and things weren’t getting any better. Another member shouted at me to employ the drop shot. I was like Voila! Why should I only clear the shuttle (clear means tossing the shuttle up towards the baseline)? Why not employ the drop? And from there on, having gained a new insight and slowing things down to where I was comfortable, I pocketed the game.
The third game was the easiest as my opponent was now reddening due to exhaustion. After some early points, the idea was clear. Employ the one-two of a clear and a drop. I won comfortably in the end.
CHAPTER 2 – Match 2 : Singles 2nd Round —
This was in the afternoon. I looked at my opponent, maybe 25 and in good shape. Turned out, the guy had the basic idea about the shots right but no practice. My focus on the one-two mentioned earlier led to a 21-11 first game win. In the break, he confessed to me that he was dead tired, unwilling to run anymore. I empathised with him (what else was I supposed to do?😁) but was happy on the inside knowing that this was game over.
Second game, I quickly gained an 11-2 lead. When the referee asked us whether we wanted to break for drinks, my opponent threw in the towel, saving both of us some extra litres of sweat. Just like that, I was in the quarterfinals.
CHAPTER 3 – Match 3 : Doubles 1st Round —
Me and my partner proved too strong for our opponents as we landed smash after smash to pocket the match in straight games. We felt this would work good in the coming rounds too. Little did we know…..
I was asked by a fellow member, my professor in undergraduate days, whether I had seen how Ansh played. I was like, Ansh who? Ansh as in Ansh Khanna, Gujarat No. 4 and India No. 65 in Singles (the latter detail came straight from the man himself. If it’s wrong, don’t blame me!). Sir told me about Ansh’s exploits.
A while later, I checked the draw sheet to know who I was going to be up against in the QF. And guess who it was? Ansh Khanna. Yeah, that one. Gujarat No. 4? No problem.
In the match, Kidambi Srikanth’s soul possessed me as I repelled his attacks – smashes, drops, slices et al. My shots left him scratching his head in frustration, as he lay prone on the wooden court, drained out from the runs I made him do.
Of course, the above paragraph grew over and over again in the alluvial soil of my mind. When it finally came to the match in real life, I was glad I had a chance to even play against a player of that calibre. I resolved that even if I could manage 5 points to his 21 in each of the two games I was going to play (there was no chance the match was going to be stretched to a third game, was there?😂😂), it’d be more than a victory for me. The match would be a huge learning experience for me.
CHAPTER 4 – Match 4 : Singles Quarterfinals —
With butterlies fluttering in the gut, I took the court. First or second point, he smashed the shuttle past me with such ferocity that it shattered all my daydreams in one instant. Oh but I am one stubborn, umm, person (let’s keep this non-profane, shall we?). I still kept dreaming and he kept making the shuttle drop in my court. A few points later, he knew his opponent wasn’t even in the same ballpark as him. So he did the next best thing. He humoured me. He kept clearing or dropping the shuttle, keeping the various tricks hidden in his kitbag. Now I might daydream, but I ain’t no fool! I did the best thing I could in that situation. Lengthened the rallies — stretching to retrieve the drop shots and using all my reserves to clear the shuttle to his baseline from mine, over and over again. The game finished at 21-10. Part-1 of the mission accomplished.
Second game, he took an early lead of some 5-6 points. I focussed on the shuttle and put in my 1000% in all of the rallies that followed. At maybe 15-7 (don’t remember the exact score), we had a long rally. He was clearing the shuttle to both sides of my baseline and I was squeezing every ounce of my power to return it back again. There were a couple of awkward drop shots too, duly retrieved. After some 20 shots, he sent a clear wide to my right. I followed the shuttle, saw it land and spread my arms wide with my face down. This was more than I ever bargained for the match from God. The loud claps from the audience never felt any sweeter. A few points later, I rushed to the net to hit a smash to his right that had him sprawled, the shuttle near his face.
My lungs were about to burst from the hellish workout I was making them go through, and the right forearm felt like all the muscles and tendons would fall apart. But I couldn’t give up, could I? Not with the person on the other side of the court allowing me to enjoy this moment in time. This was a grand story for generations of kids and family members. I would recite it to them with the appropriate exclusions and flare my nostrils and thump my chest with pride.
At 18-12 or something, there was another long rally. I kept at it as best as I could but finally, a clear stayed tantalizingly long in the air for me to judge it to be wide of the baseline. Alas, even before it touched the ground, I knew it wasn’t long. Sadly, I was at the end of the tank.
I still fought to take it to 15-20 when he charged to the net to hit a smash that had me resigned even before he made contact.
In the quarterfinals.
Against one of the best in the state, and certainly the best in the competition.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t even going to participate in the singles competition, was it?
In the aftermath, as sweat dripped down from my face like tapwater, I was congratulated by one and all for the way I fought. I’d like to think they were all heartfelt. It does make me feel better 😀😀.
I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from that match. I knew I needed to work on my singles game and my fitness. It was always at the back of my mind, but my own resilience there cleared it out for me in bold capitals.
An hour later –
CHAPTER 5 – Match 5, Doubles 2nd Round —
Things turned out anticlimactic for us. My serve deserted me at crucial points and my partner’s strengths deserted him. Or maybe our opponents were way stronger than us. Yeah, that’s better! So what happened? We lost in straight games, 15-10, 15-12.
End of the road?
Not quite. The club officials are planning an Open Kutch tourney now. I’ll continue to work on my game. And though I won’t probably win anything there, measuring myself against the best the district has to offer will tell me how far I’ve come between the tournaments. That’s the primary goal, comparing yourself vis-à-vis your past self. And I know if I put in the required effort, I’ll come out on top.
What was that phrase? Ah yes, Hope is Eternal.
Author’s Note – Ansh won the final at a canter. So you now what I’m gonna say now. I lost in the QF to the eventual champion. A certain ring of pride and achievement to it, don’t you think? 😝😝
Thanks for reading.
Images courtesy : Google Images.