ANUP SRIDHAR'S ENCORE

Anup Sridhar's first triumph at the senior Nationals in Jamshedpur in 2005 might have surprised a few, but not many eyebrows were raised when he successfully defended the title with a 15-12, 15-4 victory over fellow PSPB team-mate from Bangalore, Aravind Bhat.

Anup, 22, after his recent stint with Skaelskor Badminton Club, Copenhagen, where he had ample opportunity to play club matches and a few European Open events, looked a better player. The one big change that was visible in the six-feet three-inch tall champion was his temperament. He is far more focussed, a lot more agile and showed staying power. He had a game plan for each of his rivals and executed them to perfection. For instance, in the final he cleverly blunted Bhat's attack. Bhat's smashes proved too hot for his rivals in the championship. But Anup, who retrieved doggedly and defended adroitly, took the sting out of Aravind's attack.

Once his attacking play began to flounder, Bhat struggled and Anup began chipping away with some quicksilver flicks and a string of half smashes.

"This was a tougher final than in Jamshedpur, but I played consistently in the tournament to win," said Anup. The champion also admitted that he had become mentally tougher after his stint in Denmark. "The intensity of training and the fact that I had to be on my own for doing everything out there, helped me," he said.