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Badminton: India's junior circuit and one case of fizzled-out talent

Badminton: Indias junior circuit and one case of fizzled-out talent

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Published: 28 Jan 2019 8:48 AM GMT
Anders Antonsen's win vs a formidable Kento Momota yesterday was certainly a spectacle to behold at the finals of the Indonesia Masters Super 500 Men's Singles finals. It was an especially prominent victory since Momota has been on sparkling form since returning to the court after a lengthy ban over a case of illegal gambling. On the other hand, 21-year old Antonsen, who has thus far had a modest career in the senior circuit so far, turned the tables around with a fantastic victory to upstage the current World No 1. The last time the two had met was in the Korea Open in September 2018 when the Danish shuttler proceeded to give a little glimpse of his bubbling brilliance under the surface and stretched the match to three games, one of which he won 22-20. However, what is most assuring about Antonsen's remarkable improvement is the fact that it has been a little over two years since he properly started competing in the senior circuit. Before that, he had burst into the limelight to win the Gold at the European Junior Championships back in 2015. His transition from the Junior circuit to the senior certainly took some time but his current performance makes us think of the future of Badminton purely from an Indian perspective. And here's where we look to our own shuttlers who have performed exceptionally in the male singles category at the Junior circuit and talk about what one can expect for the sport in the country. Let's take an example of Indian shuttler
Siril Verma
. Verma was the one who had defeated Antonsen at the BWF World Junior Championships in 2015 in the Round of 16. This match was only one among two where Siril's opponent had managed to stretch the play for three games, the other one being the final that the Indian narrowly lost. This should give us an idea as to how dominating the youngster had been back then. He then went on to win the Silver for the country in the Boys Singles category thus, at the time, joining the elite list of Indian players to have won a medal in the tournament. It included names like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, RMV Gurusaidutt, HS Prannoy and Sameer Verma. Siril's performance since then has left a lot wanting. Now 19, the World Junior medal remains his most significant achievement. The next time Verma reached a major final was the 2016 Russian Grand Prix where he once again bagged the silver. So, where did the gap remain? By the age of 17,
Lakshya Sen
has quite a few achievements he can be proud of. He has effectively conquered the Junior circuit with medals at the Asian Juniors, World Junior Championships and the Youth Olympics. He has begun low-key appearances in the senior circuit as well winning four International Challenge titles between 2016 and 2018. Currently at World No 2 in the Junior circuit, it is safe to say that he is one of India's brightest prospects among the next generation of shuttlers. For a player, any player, the jump from Junior to senior is facilitated largely by the number of tournaments they play, the quality of opponents they face and the national infrastructure that they are nurtured in. Can India expect their own version of Anders Antonsen or someone even better in the near future?
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