World's top-10 is Arjun's long-term goal
The 23-year-old from Kochi now has Ludhiana's 20-year-old Dhruv Kapila as his new partner, an arrangement made by Flandy Limpele, the former doubles coach.
M.R. Arjun (right) with his new doubles partner Dhruv Kapila.
After playing the last three World badminton championships, it must have been shattering for M.R. Arjun when his men's doubles partner Shlok Ramchandran told him last year that he did not feel like continuing the sport.
The two had reached a World ranking high of 32 in 2018 but frequently kept slipping when they approached the 40th rung after that. So Arjun could understand his partner's decision.
The 23-year-old from Kochi now has Ludhiana's 20-year-old Dhruv Kapila as his new partner – an arrangement made by Indonesian Flandy Limpele who was the Indian doubles coach till March this year – and they have played five international tournaments together and have produced some fireworks too.
At the Asian Team Championships in Manila in February, the young pair came close to shocking Indonesia's three-time World champions Mohammed Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, the World No. 2, in the semifinals.
“We were leading 15-11 and we lost the decider 21-23,” said Arjun in a chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.
“That was a bittersweet result. Had we won that match, India would have entered the final (the country took the bronze there). But that match also gave us the confidence that we could play the top players well. The top 10 in the World rankings is now our long-term goal.”
But just when Arjun felt that he could make the most of his sparkling form and climb the rankings ladder quickly, came the global lockdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Though badminton training has not resumed at the national camp and at Gopichand's academy in Hyderabad, the action has begun at the Regional Sports Centre in Kochi and Arjun is now back on court.
Arjun, currently ranked World No. 95 with his new partner Kapila, has set a target of getting into the top 50 by the end of this year and 30 by May next year.
So how different is Kapila from Ramchandran?
"Shlok is a little more consistent player, he wouldn't go for any risks, he is a bit more responsible on court. It's sometimes good but if you don't take risks it's a little tough to score points at a higher level,” said Arjun.
"Dhruv, being a youngster, is not scared of taking risks, but both of us tend to go for risks and sometimes we end up on the wrong side. Still, that's not bad. If you look at Chirag Shetty and Satwik (the World No. 10 and India's top men's doubles players), both of them have an aggressive style of play. I think that is something you require to jump to the next level.
"But Dhruv, being young, also loses his temper sometimes, once maturity comes, I think both of us will be a good pair.”
But life is not easy for doubles players these days.
“With social distancing in place, the singles players will be first to get back to training at the national camp as soon as the lockdown is lifted in Telangana and I think it will start next month. The doubles camp could start by mid-June or July but things are not clear,” said Arjun, an officer with Indian Oil Corporation.
Clearly, Arjun is hungry to get back to tournament action.