When most players his age think about retiring from the sport, shuttler Arvind Bhat is raring to go. The 34-year-old kept his date with destiny, winning the men's singles title at the recently concluded German Open Grand Prix Gold when he beat Denmark's Hans-Kristian Vittinghus 24-22, 19-21, 21-11.
Arvind Bhat holds aloft the trophy after winning the German Open Grand Prix Gold in Mulheim an der Ruhr
Quite naturally, Bhat was elated with his performance. "If you see my age I am old. But in badminton's context I am still young and raring to go, having played only for 10-12 years," said the two-time national champion.
"If you see the younger players, they start featuring in the international circuit when they are around 16-17 years old. In my case, my badminton career took off during my final year of mechanical engineering when I was 22. I still have a good two-three years left in me," said the Bangalorian.
Emotions in check
Bhat's victory is sweeter for the fact that despite India's recent success in the men's arena, there has been little to show for as far as titles are concerned. "After my win, I was blank. I was leading in the second game and then lost it. I think it's been my habit since my first nationals that I celebrate prematurely.
"Hence, I told myself that even if I win, I wouldn't break into celebrations. After the final was over, I went on with my regular routine of cooling down and relaxation exercises. It was after half-an-hour when my family, friends and well-wishers started calling me up, that the feeling began sinking in."
Currently ranked 65 in the world, Bhat rose to a career high ranking of World No 20 on September 24, 2009. But it was in 2008 that he left his mark. He was a finalist at the Bitburger Grand Prix and reached the quarterfinals of the Hong Open and China Open Super Series.
Playing without a coach
An attacking player with good court coverage and uncanny judgement, Bhat doesn't have a coach at the moment and practices with friends at the Karnataka Badminton Association (KBA) courts.
He used to earlier train with badminton legend Prakash Padukone and U Vimal Kumar at the Tata Padukone Academy in Bangalore. With the academy's decision to make it exclusively for juniors in 2011-12, Bhat was left with no option.
"With no good performances in the last two years, I am not a part of the core group (selected players who train under national coach P Gopichand), so I don't get to train with the national campers.
But, I do take inputs from Gopichand and train at his academy when I find the need," said the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited player.