Before his opponent Lalthazuala H of Mizoram withdrew from the boys’ singles final, 16-year-old Pranauv Ram was leading the boys’ singles final 21-15, 11-2 on the concluding day of the Yonex Sunrise 30th Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Prize Money tournament being organised by Express Shuttle Club Trust at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Sector 3.
The Madurai native, who has now shifted base to Hyderabad along with his mother Prabhavati to train, won his maiden U-19 All India Ranking title with the Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial Trophy.
“While I had won the Bahrain Junior International Series earlier this year, I had not won a domestic All India Ranking U-19 singles’ title. The semi-final win over top-seed Dhruv Negi had set the tone for me for the final and it was unfortunate that my opponent had to withdraw due to an injury with me leading in the final. My father stays in Madurai to manage his brick business while mother stays in Hyderabad with me. I dedicate the trophy to both my parents,” Ram told The Indian Express.
For Haryana youngster Anmol Kharb, it was a day for double delight as the Faridabad native first paired up with Vennala K of Telangana to score a 17-21, 21-15, 21-11 win over the pair of Taarini Suri and Shravani Walekar of Maharashtra before winning the girls’ singles title with a close win over Punjab youngster Tanvi Sharma. The doubles win meant that the pair of Kharb/Vennala won their first U-19 doubles title together and claimed the Rachel Goenka Trophy. It was Kharb’s first doubles title, who normally plays on the singles’ circuit.
“It was a tough day for me as I had to compete in two finals but I am glad that I won both the titles. It’s my first U-19 doubles title of my career and I hope to win more such titles,” said Kharb.
Kharb’s doubles partner Vennala K hails from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, and started playing badminton at the insistence of her father Sriniwas Reddy, who works as a ticket checker in Indian Railways and is a former ball badminton national player. The Gopichand Academy trainee is also a fan of world number and Asian Games champion doubles pair of Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
“I started playing badminton at the insistence of my father, who is a ball badminton player and would see my elder brother Lokesh Reddy play badminton too. We were playing together for the first time and to win the title along with Anmol feels special for both of us,” said the youngster, who was cheered by her father on the courtside.
For 17-year-olds Mayank Rana of Sonepat, Haryana, and Sanskar Saraswat of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, it was also the first time of playing together in the tournament. The doubles pair eked out a 21-15, 21-16 win over the pair of Rohan Anandas of Telangana and Rahul Dravid Batti of Andhra Pradesh to claim the boys’ doubles title and the Anant Goenka Trophy. Rana, whose father Vikas Kumar works as a teacher, started playing badminton for fitness.
“I was fascinated by badminton and when I took up the sport seriously, my father would take me to the badminton academies in Sonepat. Later, he decided to send me to train at Gopichand Academy in 2020. I play singles as well as doubles and playing in both the categories helps me mentally as well physically too,” said Rana, who had earlier reached the final and semi-finals of a couple of All India Junior Ranking Tournaments with different partners. The pair won their maiden Junior Ranking U-19 title too with the win on Monday. After the win, Sanskar Saraswat was busy talking over the phone with his father Raj Saraswat, a former badminton player and now a coach.
“While Mayank and I have been training at Gopichand Academy for the last three years, we had paired up for the first time for this tournament. After the win, we plan to continue the partnership for next year too and we expect to win more such titles. Like others, we too are big fans of the world number pair of Satwik Reddy and Chirag Shetty,” said Saraswat.
For Kanchipuram native Pravandhika R, Monday brought her first mixed doubles title along with Bharath Sanjai of Tamil Nadu as the mixed doubles pair eked out a 21-12, 21-11 win over the top-seed pair of Bhavya Chhabra and Manya Ralhan of Delhi and Punjab. The mixed doubles pair, who claimed the Sasha Goenka Trophy, sounded ecstatic after the title win.
“My father E Raghavan is a coach in Kanchipuram and badminton was the only thing which I looked forward to playing in my childhood. I mostly play doubles and we both were pairing for the first time here. To win against the top seed for our maiden title feels special for both of us,” said 17-year-old Pravandhika.
Her partner 18-year-old Sanjai of Coimbatore too ended a title drought after a few final finishes in the All India Junior Ranking Tournaments. “I guess this venue is lucky for me. I had partnered with different partners and we reached the finals including tournaments at Bahadurgarh and Chandigarh. Playing at the national level also helps one’s confidence and I am glad that we won a title at the year-end,” said Sanjai, whose father too is a badminton coach.
Chandigarh youngster Rijul Saini won the N Haridass Rolling Trophy for being adjudged as the tournament’s best player (girls) while Lalthazuala H of Mizoram was adjudged as the best player of the tournament (boys) and claimed the Aiyappa Trophy. Tenth-seed Saini had lost to eventual winner Anmol Kharb in the girls’ semi-final on Sunday while Lalthazuala lost against Pranauv Ram in the boys’ final. Ankit Malik of Haryana was adjudged as best boys’ player of Haryana winning the Aggarwal Trophy while Medhavi Nagar of Haryana was adjudged as the best girls’ player of the state and won the Neera Dutt Trophy. In the past, London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal had won the girls’ singles title in 2005 while double Olympics medallist P V Sindhu won the title in 2010. Last year, Bharat Raghav had won the boys’ singles title while Tara Shah had won the girls’ singles title in the tournament.
National coach Pullela Gopichand’s wife P V V Laxmi had become the first girls’ singles winner in the tournament in 1991. “The tournament had seen more than 1,150 entries this year and like in the past, we are glad that we saw the emergence of some budding talents like Anmol Kharb, Tanvi Sharma and Pranauv Ram apart from others. We will also select players for the National Academy for Juniors at Guwahati from this tournament,” said Sanjiv Sachdeva, former Indian chief junior coach and member, selection committee, Badminton Association of India, and tournament director.