They are raring to go

Guru Sai Dutt.-NAGARA GOPAL

Guru Sai Dutt and Sikki Reddy, the two young players from Andhra Pradesh, are yearning to make their mark in the world of badminton. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Two young guns from Andhra Pradesh, R. M. V. Guru Sai Dutt and N. Sikki Reddy, are all set to step into the senior circuit after a highly successful transitional phase at the junior level.

The two badminton players from Hyderabad have won titles that should stand them in good stead in their pursuit of excellence at the senior level in the coming days.

Sai Dutt, aged 19, won his maiden men’s singles title only in November 2008, at the Bahrain Open. “That is very significant when I look back, for it gave enough hints that I can compete in the men’s circuit with a fair degree of confidence,” he says.

“The recent 70-day training programme in Malaysia, where I had the chance to play against some of the best players in the world, did really help change my attitude,” says Sai Dutt.

Ranked No. 160 right now, Sai Dutt has set himself the target of breaking into the top 50 by the end of this year. He is more than eager to have a feel of competing in the “exciting Super Series championships”.

“That is something that really spurs me on to work really hard and achieve my target,” he points out. “Certainly, I am now playing with a lot more confidence and maturity especially after (winning) the gold medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games and (entering) the semifinals of the World Juniors (both held in Pune in quick succession in October). But no doubt, I have to be more aggressive.”

According to Sai Dutt, a first year B. Com student of the Little Flower Degree College who took to badminton after watching “Gopi Anna” (the former All England champion, Pullela Gopi Chand) at the Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium, once he won the sub-junior national doubles title in 2005 and qualified for the sub-junior ABC Championship, he decided to devote his life to the sport. His elder sister Navya (now in the US) constantly monitors his progress and encourages him to become a better player.

Sai Dutt is of the view that though the Chinese players are far superior to others in different aspects of the game, they are not unbeatable. “The Indians have the game and the technique to counter them,” he says as if to reveal his new-found confidence.

Sai Dutt Watches his favourite sportsperson Sachin Tendulkar quite often on TV, and is yearning to carve a name for himself in the world of badminton. With Indian Oil Corporation offering him a three-year contract only recently and his parents — his father, R. M. V. Bharadwaj, is an officer with the Central Excise and mother, Anjana, is a housewife — backing him to the hilt, Sai Dutt is keen to elevate his game to a new level, so much so that he is not really bothered about how his academic career will shape up.

With solid defence and wonderful net-play, Sai Dutt is working with his mentor Gopi Chand overtime to be a much better player. And he is keen to test the waters at the National Championship in Indore (February 10-18).

The story is no different in the case of Sikki Reddy. The 16-year-old student of Villa Marie College in Hyderabad, who was first spotted by Goverdhan Reddy, a SAAP coach at the Fateh Maidan indoor stadium, during a summer camp, has been making steady progress in the last few months.

Sikki Reddy with Saina Nehwal after the final of the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune.-PTI

“The final at the Commonwealth Youth Games, where I lost to my role model Saina Nehwal, should be the turning point of my career. It was such an exciting match and I was happy that I could stretch Saina in front of a capacity crowd in Pune,” recalls Sikki, who left a huge impression on the critics when she won the junior National title last year.

“The big difference after the Commonwealth Youth Games is that I am no more nervous before the start of any contest now,” she says.

Sikki is aware of the fact that she needs to improve her speed and work a lot more on her backhand. “My strokes and drops are my strong points. Yes, definitely, there is always scope for improvement right through any athlete’s career,” she acknowledges.

Sikki’s parents, Krishna Reddy and Madhavi, shifted their base from Warangal to Hyderabad on realising that the future of their daughter was in badminton.

Sikki, who is also nursing an ambition to study MBA, is currently engaged in long training sessions with chief National coach Gopi Chand. She is hoping to put up a good show at the coming National Championship in Indore.

Gopi Chand is all praise for these two youngsters. He says: “It is important they stick to the basics even while working on their strengths and weaknesses over the next few months. Honestly, I am really happy that these two can provide the answer to the big question — after Saina who?”