Age no bar as Shubham Patel attempts big leap

Nitin Sharma
Shubham Patel trains at the Prakash Padukone academy in Bangalore. (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

Post his 15-9, 15-11 win over Irvin Arokia Walter in the final qualification round of the boys under-19 category of the 28th Yonex Sunrise Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial Tournament, 16-year-old Shubham Patel walked across to the court where his friends from the sub-junior under-17 section were competing.

The Alwar teenager, who won the u-17 silver medal at last year s Nationals, prefers the company of his old friends as he tries to find his feet in the higher age group. I like spending time with my u-17 mates. But I know that I need to improve my u-19 singles rankings of 38. The focus is on improving my game to face tougher and stronger opponents. Even though the transition from u-17 to u-19 is not that big compared to the one from u-19 to the senior category, exposure in more junior tournaments will help me prepare for seniors too, Patel said.

Son of an automobile engineer, Patel got hooked onto badminton after watching his cousins play the sport in a park near his home. He became Rajasthan u-13 singles and doubles champion in 2014, and won his first national title in doubles pairing up with Denis Srivastava at the All India Sub-Junior Ranking Tournament in Jodhpur in 2017.

The same year, Patel paired up with Ayush Raj Gupta to win the bronze at the Asian Badminton U-15 Championships in Myanmar. Last year, he combined with Gupta to win the silver at the sub-junior National Ranking Tournament in Nagpur and another in the U-17 singles at the Nationals in Bengaluru.

This year, Patel reached the final of the All India Ranking u-17 Tournament in Imphal.

Like any other player, I also liked to compete in doubles. It helped me get better at singles. My first medal at the national level came in doubles and the same year, I won the bronze with Ayush in Myanmar. But my heart always lies in singles. The silver medal at last year s Nationals gave me confidence that I can focus on singles in the U-19 category as well and it has been one of my goals this year. I have suffered some close losses but have learnt from them. After the u-19 ranking tournaments, I will be playing in the Asian U-17 Badminton Championships in Sri Lanka in October, shared Patel.

The youngster has been training at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru for the last one year. Coach Umendra Singh Rana believes Patel has got the game to excel at the U-19 level.

Shubham came to train under us last year. He was physically a bit weak earlier but would practise with seniors like Lakshya Sen, which helped his game. His basics are strong, the length of his strokes is good and he is able to tire his opponents. Being a left-hander adds to his advantage and he also counter-attacks well. The only thing he needs to improve upon to excel at the U-19 and senior levels is his smashes, said Rana.

Editor’s note: The article was corrected to state that Patel hails from Alwar