Meet the player: Varun Kapur, Pune’s rising star in India’s badminton galaxy

Varun Kapur has just won two back-to-back international tournaments. Here’s why he is the next bright spot in India’s badminton galaxy
Varun Kapur practices at the Nikhil Kanetkar badminton academy at Balewadi.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
Varun Kapur practices at the Nikhil Kanetkar badminton academy at Balewadi.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
Updated on Apr 23, 2019 05:01 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByPranav Shahaney

Local lad and Maharashtra’s under-17 badminton number one, Varun Kapur, did the entire nation proud as he managed to defy the odds and triumph against the top-seeded Tomas Toledano from Spain 6-21, 21-19, 21-16 to clinch the under-19 boys singles title at the Valamar Junior Open 2019 in Croatia on April 7.

Losing the first game by registering only six points on the board would’ve shattered the confidence of many youngsters, but Kapur managed to turn over a new leaf in the final two games of the final to lift the title.

After the final, he said, “It feels really great to be the champion here as it was a tough tournament with two matches each day. The final was also a great experience. My opponent liked to rally a lot. I played steady and remained patient and started mixing up the pace and which worked for me.”

Kapur, who has a senior India ranking of 5, followed the win in Croatia with another impressive performance to clinch his second international title of 2019. He defeated Mads Juel Moller (Denmark) in the final of the U-19 boys singles event by 21-19, 9-21, 21-19 to win the 2019 Li Ning Cyprus Junior Open on Sunday.

Born and brought up in Kolkata, it was due to his love for the sport of badminton, he decided to uproot himself and move to Pune. Leaving his father and coming to seek new pastures in the city with his mother was a hard thing to do for 11-year-old Varun Kapur.

Kapur was in Class 6 when he decided that he had to do whatever it takes to make badminton the priority in his career. (Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
Kapur was in Class 6 when he decided that he had to do whatever it takes to make badminton the priority in his career. (Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)

In hindsight, the decision turned out to work wonders for the badminton prodigy’s fledgeling career as he polished his skills at the Nikhil Kanetkar academy at Balewadi to become the top-ranked Maharashtra player.

Kapur explained why it was imperative for him to move to the city and how he is extremely glad that his parents backed his decisions from the outset and gave him whatever he needed to become a successful badminton player.

“I started playing badminton back in Kolkata when I was six, but that was only for fun. Even my coaches said that I was playing well, but there was no infrastructure there (Kolkata) to grow so I decided to move to Pune. I had been here before for summer camps and that made up my mind to move here,” he said.

Kapur was in Class 6 when he decided that he had to do whatever it takes to make badminton the priority in his career and made a rather heavy decision to leave his school and familiar surroundings to move to a completely new city.

His father decided to stay back in Kolkata due to his work commitments, but after two years decided to move to Pune with his wife and son.

Explaining the challenges he faced early on, Kapur stated, “Moving to a different school at that age was a bit tough as I met a lot of new people so it took time to adapt. I also changed boards where I moved from International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) to Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE), so that was another challenge I encountered. However, I felt very comfortable at home and at even at the academy.”

Like every teenage badminton player, it’s Kapur’s dream to win an Olympic medal for the country and he believes he is in the right place to achieve whatever he’s set out to do.

According to him, players of his age need funding to the next level and that is something equipment sponsor Li Ning has given Kapur ever since he started playing internationally.

“I’m grateful for all the help and support they have given me. The Kanetkar foundation sponsored my trips abroad and it’s due to them how I’ve managed to play a number of tournaments,” said the 16-year-old.

Kapur’s badminton calendar has a number of national and international tournaments lined up and 2019 could be the year where he becomes India’s top-ranked player.

First competitive tournament

Glued to the badminton racket since he was six, Kapur waited for a year before entering into his first competitive tournament. His first two tournament wins came when he was eight-year-old – in the under-9 and under-11 category. There, Kapur was trained under Bengal veterans Badal Bhattacharjee and Laltu Guh. He polished his skills at the Saturday Club and visits it whenever he’s in town.

The Kanetkar view

“In the initial days, Varun came to Pune to attend two summer camps. When I was in Kolkata, I had a chat with his parents and that’s when we spoke about him moving to Pune. I feel that the move to Pune really helped him. Especially, in the under-13 and under-15 category, it took him time but now he’s grown taller and stronger and is picking up faster. We worked a lot on his frame of mind as well. I had explained to him the need to take his training, his choice of food and his sleeping very seriously. He has shown remarkable improvement both in off and on court foramts. Even in Croatia, it was important for him to remain focused on playing his own game after he was down a game and he did that well and pulled off a victory at the end.”

Nikhil Kanetkar. (Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
Nikhil Kanetkar. (Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)


· Practice from 7:30 am to 9 am

· Second session of the day’s practice from 2:30 pm to 4:45 pm

· Fitness training from 5 pm to 6 pm – Two days on the ground and three days in the gym

International achievements

Mongolia (June 21-24, 2018) - 2nd position

Dubai (Sept 23-28, 2018) – 1st position

Slovak junior (Oct 5-7, 2018) - 1st position

Croatia (April 5-7, 2019) - 1st position

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