It’s time for Pune shuttler Pratul to smash into top 50
Apart from his current titles, shuttler is known for beating former World and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat at the $1,20,000 Syed Modi Grand Prix in New Delhi in 2012pune Updated: Jan 29, 2018 16:15 IST
City-based shuttler Pratul Joshi bagged his third title of the 2017-18 season claiming the men’s singles crown at Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta Memorial All India Senior Ranking Badminton Tournament in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh last week.
Earlier, he had won All-India titles at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh (October 2017) and then the All-India title at Sikkim (November).
Pratul is currently ranked India No. 2 with 3,148 points and there are high hopes from this 23-year-old to continue on this graph at the international level too.
However, apart from his rankings and titles, the shuttler is well-known for his marvellous feat of beating former World, Olympic and defending champion Taufik Hidayat in the $1,20,000 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold Tournament in New Delhi in 2012.
Pratul, who was a trainee at the Prakash Padukone Academy and a first-year student of Delhi’s Khalsa College at the time, surprised everyone, including himself, by defeating his idol. His 21-17, 21-12 win came in just 30 minutes.
“Obviously it will always be a memorable moment for me. Winning against the most talented player ever will be always special for anyone. I have never seen any player playing the shuttle so beautifully,” said Pratul.
“On the other hand, to be honest, I know that day he was not in his best form, but after all, at end of the day it’s about winning. So whenever I go back to that time it’s very inspirational and encouraging for me,” he added.
At Bareilly, top-seeded Pratul fought off the challenge of 12th ranked Kartik Jindal (Haryana) 21-15, 11-21, 21-18 in a 61-minute battle.
In the semifinals, he downed Arintap Dasgupta (West Bengal) 21-23, 21-10, 21-1 after beating Swarnaraj Bora (Delhi) 24-22, 21-19 in the quarters.
Interestingly, last year, Pratul finished runners-up at Bareilly.
Pratul said, “Winning is a great feeling and I am glad to win the title that I missed last year. The victory completed the incomplete business that carried forward from last year.”
When asked what changes did he observe in his game in a year, he said, “I have been working a lot mentally. Not just on the court, but off the court too. It helped me a lot and during the crucial stages of the matches, I was feeling stronger and more confident than ever before.
“If you see the scores, I have pulled through long matches due to my mental toughness.”
Talking about his feat of winning three titles in a season, Pratul said it’s really satisfying and obviously a confidence booster.
“Though I feel this came later than expected, sometimes you have to show patience for titles like this. I have been waiting for a senior all-India title for the last two-three years.”
Pratul made his debut at the Premier Badminton League (PBL) with North Eastern Warriors last year. He was part of the team with Wang Tzu Wei, Ajay Jayaram and Michelle Li.
“It was a great experience. I think we had a pretty balanced team and an amazing management team too. Getting three weeks with some of the best players from across the globe was really a great experience,” he said.
Pratul was part of the Hidayat Academy and now for the last 2.5 years, is training with former Olympian Nikhil Kanetkar at the Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy (NKBA) in Balewadi.
“When I joined NKBA, I was returning from a knee injury. I was struggling for a good performance and support. At that time Nikhil bhaiya (brother) believed in me. He supported me and guided me well to get back on track.
“Obviously he has played a big role, as have all the other NKBA team members, without them I don’t think it would have been possible.”
The shuttler who currently holds a Badminton World Federation (BWF) ranking of 133 is now targeting on the international circuit and a place in the Top 50.