Teenager Siddhanth a national prospect, says coach

Karthick, a senior coach at the HAP Badminton Academy in Sivakasi, where Siddhanth has been training for around five months now, lauded the 14-year-old's 'fearless' attitude.

Siddhanth is now National No.7 in the u-17 boys’ singles.   -  K. Pichumani

Siddhanth Gupta, the 14-year old Tamil Nadu shuttler, is rated high and considered precocious.

“He’s a National prospect. If he gets moulded a bit, he can make it big,” said Karthick at the Tamil Nadu Badminton League here. Karthick is a senior coach at the HAP Badminton Academy in Sivakasi, where Siddhanth has been training for around five months now.

Karthick said Siddhanth and Sankar Muthusamy have shown special potential among the younger lot in Tamil Nadu. “When compared to the other players of his age category, he doesn’t have the fear of playing against older and better opponents,” said Karthick.

“He’s an India probable,” is how Jerry Martin, who has coached him for four years, put it. It was under Jerry that Siddhanth rose to National No.1 in the u-15 boys’ singles last year. He stayed atop for around five months.

He’s now National No.7 in the u-17 boys’ singles. He reached the pre-quarterfinals representing India in the u-15 boys’ singles at the Asian junior badminton championships in Yangon (Myanmar) last year, the biggest achievement of his career so far.

Fine tuning footwork

“When he came to me, he appeared extraordinary in his batch. He started winning in the u-15 category when he was u-13, and in u-17 when u-15,” Jerry added.

“He was a little bad with his footwork (court movement). Bad in the sense, he used to skate a bit, lunge less. So, we worked on it.

“There’s the Chinese and the Indian movement. Indian is the running movement – play and run. The legs are often close together and they’ll be running for court coverage. This, he was doing.

"In the Chinese, the one we worked on, the legs are wide apart, there will be a lot of chasse and cross-behind movements. Chasse is such that the feet move a lot, the legs will not rush. Cross-behind is such that the legs are diagonal to each other, and short, quick steps are taken. This is especially to approach the corners,” he said.

Dictating the pace

Karthick reckoned Siddhanth has a ‘slow’ game, that he’s a bit late in his reaction. He says he waits for the shuttle, watches, and plays, as compared to the ‘fast’ players, who often rush to the shuttle and attack all the time.

“Yes, he’ll react a little late for the forecourt, not the backcourt. To compensate for that we’ve made him play sharp strokes,” said Jerry.

The coaches said Siddhanth has the ability to make the ‘fast’ players play to his pace. For instance, he’s good at the ‘dribble,’ a shot that sends the shuttle spinning, making proper contact and placement difficult for the opponent. They said it’s hard to ‘smash’ it as well.

Siddhanth said, “I don’t let them attack. When the shuttle is dribbled, most players merely ‘lift’ it that makes them open up to the opponent. I just re-dribble. I’ll make sure that I don’t let them smash or play fast. For instance, I use the high toss to make the game slow.”

He has been made to join the Quantum Leap Performance (QLP), a Chennai-based high-performance training centre for athletes to better his “reflex strength and speed.” He has been devised a schedule that he follows at his academy when he’s not here. Renowned sportspersons Narain Karthikeyan and Sharath Kamal train at the QLP.

Fitness is the reason why he stopped playing doubles by the start of 2016. “I used to get tired a lot, easily,” he said.  

A shot that he’s really good at is the half smash. “When he does that from the backcourt or the midcourt, he often places it exactly on the lines; say, seven out of ten times,” said Karthick.

Also, the coaches said his play is such that it’s near impossible to read him and anticipate what shot he’s going to play. Something he doesn’t make a conscious effort for, he said.