Anupama Upadhyaya is an introvert but only outside the badminton court. When she steps into the arena, she roars after every point.
The 18-year-old, a former BWF World junior number one, will be representing India as part of the women’s team, in the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Expectedly, the Almora girl is excited.
“I’ll get to meet so many top athletes, especially, Neeraj Chopra. I’m a huge fan. (And I’ll get) to wear the Indian jersey for the opening ceremony,” Anupama said in an interaction with Sportstar.
Currently, in the 15-day camp with the Indian badminton contingent in the Pullela Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad, she has been spending a lot of time with the likes of H. S. Prannoy and P. V. Sindhu, with whom she not only talks about which is the best grip to hit a smash but also makes reels with them.
Anupama (currently ranked 84th in the world), who achieved her best ranking of 47 in January 2023, is still a year into her transition from junior to senior level.
She won the National Badminton Championships 2023 in February and has been consistently participating in international tournaments, challengers, and BWF world tours, winning 10 out of 17 games she has played in so far.
Anupama was also part of India’s Sudirman Cup 2023 contingent and played one match against Australia’s Tiffany Ho and beat her in two straight games 21-16, 21-18.
“There has been a lot of progress this year. Since winning the senior Nationals, I’ve become more confident and focused. It was a (learning) experience playing at such a high level in the Sudirman Cup.”
To have that experience not only bolstered Anupama’s confidence but also made her more aware of her game.
“All players have the same strokes and court coverage, but it is the strength and mentality that differentiates the players at the senior level,” she said.
To gain more strength, she is on a protein-rich diet and is focusing on muscle gain as advised by her nutritionist from the Reliance Foundation, which also supports her in psychological training, strength and conditioning, and ticketing and travel.
Tactics and game awareness
Anupama idolises former World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying and has adopted the deceptive play the Chinese Taipei player is known for. She is also looking forward to watching recent World Champion An Se Young, whose play she finds ‘smooth and easy’, train in the upcoming weeks.
“I’ve also practised the forehand reverse drops from backcourt like she (Tzu Ying) does,” she said.
Despite her willingness to extract whatever she can, by watching them play, Anupama knows that on some days some strokes will not work either due to luck or factors like opponents and conditions.
All she tries to do is focus on keeping the shuttle speed up as the tactics keep changing throughout the game.
According to her, luck plays a huge role during a match and to sometimes get the momentum back, players try different things like changing shuttles, going for a towel break or diving so that the game stops to mop the floor.
“It just a matter of seconds that luck changes and you get a break to think and during that sometimes the points come your way,” she said.
“All top 10 players are equal, and anybody can beat anyone, it all depends on whose day it is, and who is more tactically sound.”
After all the hard work on-court, Anupama tries to unwind by watching Tennis, particularly Novak Djokovic play. Apart from that, watching movies and playing games – from card games to mobile games with her friends – is how she passes time as her introverted self isn’t fond of going out a lot.
Despite her unwillingness to go outside, she knows exactly where she needs to be – at the podium with a medal.
“I want to reach my target. I’m getting a chance in the Asian Games and then in the Olympics also I want to win the medal,” she expressed.
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