Thulasi looks to home comfort to rebuild career

The 25-year-old is trying to rebuild her career and regain her touch which saw her climb to a career-best 34 in the world rankings in February 2015. Hit by a series of injuries, her ranking has now dived to 146.

“This is my home, here I have all my people around. There [in Hyderabad], I was a sort of outsider,” said Thulasi, the 2016 National badminton champion.   -  Stan Rayan

They play the same sport, but for the last few years P.C. Thulasi had not seen much of her younger brother’s badminton.

But now, she gets to watch her brother Akshay every day at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here and also offers him many tips. Her dad also drops in frequently.

“This is my home, here I have all my people around. There [in Hyderabad], I was a sort of outsider,” said Thulasi, the 2016 National badminton champion, in a chat with Sportstar on Saturday.

After being at the Gopichand Academy and National camp for nearly 10 years, Thulasi is back home in Kochi.

The 25-year-old is trying to rebuild her career and regain her touch which saw her climb to a career-best 34 in the world rankings in February 2015. Hit by a series of injuries, her ranking has now dived to 146.

Guiding her at the Regional Sports Centre here are two seasoned stars — Sanave Thomas and Joy T. Antony — both men she can count on.

Just a couple of years ago, Thulasi was on a dream run. A few months after winning bronze medals with the Indian team at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and at the Uber Cup, she reached her best world ranking.

That was a phase when she was playing many international tournaments, paying from her own pocket.

“But the money spent, some ₹ 2.5 lakh then, was worth it because I was able to climb the rankings and I was also getting prize-money,” explained the ONGC star from Kerala.

She tried the same strategy last year too but there was only disappointment. “After winning the senior National title last April, I played four international tournaments in Vietnam, Chinese Taipei and Indonesia, but I lost all four of them in the first round.”

That cost her something like ₹ 3 lakh and with her financial reserves sinking fast, Thulasi was hungry for a change.

Rest and recovery

The thigh injury in November and the two-month break that came with it brought her to Kochi for rest and recovery.

Thulasi said her long stay at the Gopichand Academy made her stronger but with many world stars around, it was only natural that players like her were not getting much attention from coach Gopi Chand.

“He could not focus on everybody. And he has office work also but whenever he had time, he used to come. Some of the coaching sessions we got with him were really good,” she said.

“I had good times, bad times and you face so many challenges when you are alone. It was difficult but in the end, the experience gives you more confidence.”

Fully recovered and fresh now, Thulasi is looking forward to getting back to the circuit. She has the National-ranking tournament this month-end and the India Open Super Series in New Delhi in April.

“After that I have to look for some foreign tournaments. I have to look for sponsors because I have almost exhausted all the funds I had,” she said.

“I have to play because without playing, you don’t points. And I shouldn’t worry about rankings now… if you play well, your ranking will automatically go up.”