Parupalli Kashyap became only the third Indian men’s shuttler to reach a career-high World No 7 ranking as the World Badminton Federation (BWF) released its rankings last week. More importantly for the player, in doing so, he emulated his idol — Pullela Gopichand. The legendry Prakash Padukone first broke into world Top 10 rankings way back in 1979.
Kashyap goes into the India Open Super Series, beginning today at the Siri Fort Complex here, as the No 5 seed and is drawn to meet Indonesian ace Taufiq Hidayat in Round One. MiD DAY caught up with a confident Kashyap, who was happy that his No 7 ranking would help him in the main fixtures at international events, but felt his draw here is a tough ask. Excerpts:
How hard was it to break into that Top 10 barrier?
It was very hard (to enter the Top 10). It was a huge toil that took so many years. It was at this very tournament last year that I was lucky in a way as I got a walkover in quarter-finals and reached the semis. But my preparations had been going on long before. It was a dream to be a Top 10 player and once that happened, you want to move up. I am lucky that in Gopi Sir, I have a coach who knows the exact work ethic needed (to be up here). It’s been a good year for me as I have been making it to quarters and semis often.
Does a World No 7 ranking help in tournaments?
Once you are in the Top 8, you will always be seeded in the main draw of 32 and that helps a lot. If you are World No 9 for example, and the Top 8 are playing, you could meet anyone in Round One itself. So it helps in a way (to be the Top 8) especially in big ticket events like the Super Series where, if you are in form, you can at least make the quarter-finals.
Did you set any specific target across this last year?
I wanted to be recognised as a Top 10 player for sure. That was important psychologically. I have achieved that, so that’s over. The important thing for any player is to win titles and I won the India GP Gold at Lucknow — my first big international title. But for me, a player ‘arrives’ if he or she wins a Super Series title. Look at Saina (Nehwal), she is such an inspiration for all of us. I need to win a big title to really arrive and be known as a top-class player. Winning a big Super Series title is my priority.
Speaking of India Open, you have an interesting match first-up.
I have a really tough draw. Taufiq may be getting old, but he loves to play in India. He has a lot of experience and can turn things around any time. He has been Olympic champion, so I can’t take things lightly. But World No 1 Lee Chong Wei is the player to beat. I have played him in the quarter-finals at the London Olympics and stretched him. I have worked on my fitness and smashes a lot. I have prepared well, so I hope to do well with a bit of luck.