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Parupalli Kashyap: Not to rule him out of contention yet

Parupalli Kashyap: Not to rule him out of contention yet

Imtiaz Azad

Published: 12 April 2019 10:34 AM GMT
Three years and eleven months! That's how long Parupalli Kashyap had to wait to reach a Super Series/World Tour 500 event semi-final. The seasoned shuttler, who had been waiting for long to put a notable performance and reached the semis of Indian Open -- a $350,000 event — after beating Wang Tzu-wei 21-16, 21-11. The semis battle though concluded in a one-sided haul by the great Viktor Axelsen, Kashyap showed a spark during the second game by 4 points. Axelsen took the lead and made his way to the final with a straight win by 21-11, 21.17. The 32-year-old seems to have found his composure back again and reached the pre-quarterfinals of the men singles competitions at the
Singapore Open
badminton tournament. Kashyap engaged in a fierce battle with reigning Olympic champion, Chen Long of China.

A spirited performance saw him stretching Chen to three games before narrowly losing 9-21 21-15 16-21 to the fourth-seeded Chinese, who had reached the finals at Malaysia Open last year.

For Kashyap, semi-finals weren't a rare achievement till April 2015. The former world number 6 who has been afflicted by a string of injuries ever since, showcased a renewed vigour while taking on Wang. Kashyap is well aware of the fact that this year is going to be the selection for the 2020 Tokyo Games and he is on the pursuit to improve his rankings.
"Getting into more superseries is my target. It just getting tough physically. I just want to take my ranking up,"
said Kashyap who is currently ranked 55th in the world. Abdomen, shoulder, back, shin and a torrent of other injuries had kept him out of the game and plummeted his rankings. Kashyap, who is a married man now is seen in the coach's seat during big tournaments, strategising for his wife Saina Nehwal. Kashyap had to miss the 2016 Rio Olympics due to a knee injury, leaving Srikanth the only Indian in the men's field. Speaking on his Olympic dreams, Kashyap said he doesn't merely want to qualify for the Games but wants to go to Tokyo as a medal contender.
"I am sure, whoever qualifies from among us will be a medal contender. Who qualifies will depend on how consistent we are, but if someone from 5-6 of us has to qualify, he has to be in top 10. Right now, Srikanth is there and Sameer is quite close. I think most of us are in top 25, so top 10 should be the aim from where you can think of qualifying,"
he said. https://twitter.com/TheBridge_IN/status/1111617153541832704 From pursuing badminton as a hobby to become one of the poster boys of the Indian badminton scene, Kashyap surely has come a long way. His historical feat of becoming the first Indian men's shuttler to enter the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics, catapulted his fame instantly. Eventually, his medal tally comprised of a Commonwealth Games gold medal as well. Kashyap's feat was extra special because of his indomitable spirit with which he conquered asthma and made the cut.

Trained under the aegis of two badminton legends -- Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand -- Kashyap began his professional career in 2000 and has been a part of the Indian contingent since 2006.

He played many international championships in the next few years and broke into the top 100 by reaching the 64th position after he defeated world number 19, Przemysaw Wacha, in 2005. In 2006, Kashyap represented India at the Asian Games. He reached the semifinals of three important tournaments in 2009 – Dutch Open, Senior National Badminton Championships, and Singapore Super Series. He was a runner-up at the Spanish Open in 2009. At the 2010 Commonwealth Games, he was a part of the silver medal-winning team. In 2012, Kashyap was closer to fulfilling his Olympic dream. He reached the quarterfinals of the London Olympics where he lost to top-seeded Lee Chong Wei. The moment of reckoning came in 2014 when Kashyap won the Gold medal in men’s singles at the Commonwealth Games. The medal gave him the much-needed morale boost as 2014 wasn’t a great year for him otherwise. After pretty intense challenges in various stages, he dashed into the finals and defeated Derek Wong of Singapore. Kashyap was the champion at the BWF Grand Prix in 2012 and 2015.

Long break for a new win

Kashyap 's fall in rankings coincided with the steady rise of the likes of Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, and B Sai Praneeth on the domestic circuit. In 2018, Kashyap clinched his first international title in over three years by winning the Austrian Open International Challenge where he defeated Malaysia’s June Wei Cheam in the men’s singles final. Instead of taking a long break in order to train, Kashyap says he's simply looking to play as many tournaments as possible and train when he can. Which is why Kashyap has been playing tournaments almost non-stop since the Dutch Open in November last year. Despite being hospitalised for viral flu in January during the Indonesia Masters, he participated in the national championships getting just four days of training between competitions. Slowing down is not what he plans for and he is motivated to carry seeing other senior players in the circuit like Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. The quarterfinal spot at the India Open is a confidence booster if nothing else.
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