Siddhanth Gupta: ‘Dribbling’ past opponents

“When compared to the other players of his age category, he doesn’t have the fear of playing against older and better opponents.”

Fearless: Siddhanth Gupta in action.   -  K. Pichumani

AGE: 15

FROM: Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Education: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan [Passed Standard IX, CBSE in 2017, intends to pursue Standard X via the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)].

Discipline: Badminton.

The Beginning: When he was around five years, Siddhanth used to go to the Madras Cricket Club (MCC), where his father is a member. He saw his father play, got interested, and started playing badminton. Sanjiv Sachdeva, the former chief National junior coach, saw him play and thought he had the potential to make it big. Siddhanth started professional training when he was six.

Achievements: 2017: Became National No.1 in the U-15 boys’ singles.

Reached the pre-quarterfinals of the Asian junior badminton championships in Yangon (Myanmar).

Finished third in the U-15 boys’ singles at the National sub-junior championship in Tenali (Andhra Pradesh).

Mentors: Jerry Martin, who has coached Siddhanth for four years, and under whom he was the National No. 1 in the under-15 boys’ singles for around five months, says: “He’s an India probable. When he came to me, he appeared extraordinary in his batch. He started winning in the under-15 category when he was under-13, and in under-17 when under-15.”

Karthick, a senior coach at the academy Siddhanth trains now, says: “When compared to the other players of his age category, he doesn’t have the fear of playing against older and better opponents.”

To point a weakness, Karthick reckons Siddhanth has a ‘slow’ game. That he’s a bit late in his reaction. 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,” says Jerry.

“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,” Jerry adds.

Siddhanth has been assisted by the Quantum Leap Performance (QLP), a Chennai-based high performance training centre for athletes, to improve his fitness, particularly his reflex strength and speed. Fitness is the reason why he stopped playing doubles (by the start of 2016) and minimised his workload, he says.

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

Siddhanth says, “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.”

“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 10 times,” says Karthick.

The coaches say 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, Siddhanth says.