At 28, Aparna prepares for one final fling
Aparna Popat is readying herself for another comeback. The nine-time National champion has not laid her hand on a racquet ever since the Commonwealth Games in March. The reason - a wrist injury she's been carrying for nearly a year.
Speaking from Bangalore, Aparna said she had not stepped on the court for nearly three months. "I started training only a couple of days back. I hope to regain fitness and match-preparedness in the coming months."
The 28-year-old Mumbaikar revealed she was carrying the injury for nearly a year. "In fact, I was carrying the injury during the Thomas and Uber Cup qualifiers at Jaipur in February. At that time, I didn't realise the true extent of the injury," she said.
But she aggravated it while playing in the Commonwealth Games individual championships quarter-finals.
"I was playing against England's Alicia Peters. In the second game I experienced a sharp pain after hitting a smash. That moment I knew there was something wrong. I went back to Mumbai where my physio asked me to stop playing immediately," says Aparna.
The injury also kept Aparna out of the month-long coaching camp under P Gopi Chand. "To train under him is something I will miss." How did she spend her time while recuperating? "I went back to Mumbai. Back to my parents, my friends. It was a welcome break. I feel it has helped me get that much-needed respite and also regain my focus. I want to give it a final shot. I know things are not going to be easy, but I am determined to do my best."
Aparna has to start from a scratch. By not playing in the International Badminton Federation (IBF) circuit, her ranking has taken a free-fall. Ranked as high as 22, she is currently placed 124th. That means she will have to come through qualifiers in order to play the main tournaments. "Playing qualifiers can be tough. You can end up playing two matches a day. But I am ready for the long haul."
She is not perturbed by the fact that now the focus has shifted to Saina Nehwal. "I do not see any competition between me and Saina. Some people ask me whether she is a better player than me. All I have to say is that she has got her positives and I have got mine."
Knowing Aparna Popat for so long one can be sure that the soft-spoken Mumbaikar is not likely to bow out on a low note.