A star is born — Priyanshu Rajawat 'unexpectedly' takes Badminton Selection Trials by storm
Securing the lone spot available on the squad in the men's singles, youngster Priyanshu Rajawat emerges as a surprise package as he becomes the last man standing at the BAI Selection Trials.
New Delhi: Hours before his scheduled final match against Kiran George, Priyanshu Rajawat was already pacing and practising on the warm-up courts at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall inside the Indira Gandhi Sports Arena in the capital city.
Just a day before, the 20-year-old Rajawat had humbled another upcoming star, Ravi to book his date with George, his opponent from the Odisha Open finals.
Still, a little gutted by the loss he faced at the Super 100 event in January to George, Priyanshu, a quiet smile playing on his lips, had told The Bridge "I had lost to Kiran last time. So I will do my best and try with my everything to ensure it doesn't pan out that way."
And ensure it is that he did - going on to display his prowess in a thrilling 58-minute three-setter that had drama packed in it from start to finish before Rajawat took control of the reins to win, 21-15, 18-21, 21-10, a triumphant fist pump marking a great victory.
A bundle of smiles moments after the match and a look of sheer disbelief washing over his face, Rajawat talked to The Bridge, gushing, "I did not expect this at all. When I was coming for the trials, I didn't even imagine that I could bag the one spot on offer, this feels surreal!"
"But now that this has happened and I am going to be a part of the team for the Thomas Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, I'll only work harder now!"
The competition in the men's singles was intense, to begin with, and the fact that there was only one spot available, didn't make matters any easier. Already Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy were included in the squad for the upcoming team tournaments based on their rankings and recent performances, leaving room for only one, from a sea of both seasoned and new campaigners.
Last man standing
A product of the Gopichand Academy, Priyanshu confessed to being a tad nervous before this mega-encounter against George, an ace from the Padukone Academy.
"I was a little worried about facing Kiran today because I had lost to him in my last meeting at the Odisha Open finals. There was a little pressure on me hence but I had trained well for it and the results showed," Rajawat explained, a shy smile on his face.
"I watched videos of our last match and saw my mistakes there and I knew I must not repeat them today at any cost," Rajawat reflected, still flushed from the victory.
Starting off confidently, Rajawat and George kept toe-to-toe for a large part of the first game before the 20-year-old from Dhar, Madhya Pradesh notched things up to win 21-15. With both players deft at the net and deceptive in the rallies, by no means was overthrowing a Kiran George any mean task but Rajawat looked well set, aside from losing his way briefly in the second.
"In the second game, I was up at 18-15 and that's when I started to get a little over-confident and the mistakes also piled up. Into the decider, I composed myself again and I simply put in my everything and won," he admitted.
Planning to hit the courts after a couple of days' rest, Rajawat, his eyes twinkling, mentioned that he only wants to get better now and work on his strength.
Perhaps the success of the trials lies in discovering the "unexpected" like Priyanshu Rajawat and whatever happens next, at least today, a star was born.