Sai Dutt has remarkable ability to retrieve the shuttle from seemingly difficult angles

Even as Parupalli Kashyap is slowly inching his way to stardom at the highest level, R.M. Guru Sai Dutt is making sure that he is not left far behind in the men’s league, at least.

Consider this. He was ranked World No. 375 in 2008 and now is World No. 38, making giant strides in the big league in a rather unobtrusive manner. For this 23-year-old former world juniors bronze medallist, inspired to take up badminton watching the 2001 All England champion Pullela Gopi Chand (now chief national coach who also runs the Gopi Chand Academy on his own), has made a few significant statements of him finally coming on to the big stage with two big wins in recent time - the Tata Open and last weekend the Vankina Anjani Devi memorial All India senior ranking tournament (conducted by former Andhra Ranji captain V. Chamundeswaranath in his mother's memory) in front of his home crowd at the Gopi Academy.

Clear dominance

The fact that Guru won the two finals against the same opponent - Bhamidipati Sai Praneeth - should also be a reflection of the clear dominance of the trainees of Gopi Academy at the national level as the two are trainees at the truly world-class set-up in Gachibowli. For all those who regularly watch this world juniors bronze medallist, the one area of concern has been his physical fitness levels. But that now for the good seems to be a thing of the past. This PSPB shuttler has every aspect of the game in his armoury. And it was a treat to watch every time he jumped in the air to unleash those telling smashes. More importantly, unlike many of those big smashers, Guru has remarkable ability to retrieve the shuttle from seemingly difficult angles. For a split second, it seems to be a lost point before he makes those acrobatic dives and comes up with some splendid retrievals. It all began in 2005 when he first won the sub-junior national title and since then it has been a slow and steady progress.

For within a year, he won the Commonwealth Youth Games gold and the Bahrain International Challenge. Clear reminders of his abilities. One of Guru’s major career victories was when he outsmarted former All England champion Muhammed Hashim in the 2010 Yonex India Open quarter-final.The fact that Guru along with Sai Praneeth, Saurabh Varma, Ajay Jayram, Srikanth form a formidable assembly line of immense talent should also augur well for Indian men’s badminton too. “Yes, all of them have the talent to go up in the circuit. All they need is to work really hard and translate their potential into performance,” feels Gopi, who makes it a point to keep an eye on this young bunch every day at his Academy. Buoyed by his recent successes, Guru now aims to be in the top 20 in the world. “It is not going to be easy. But I am confident,” says the articulate shuttler in the mood to script new chapters of triumph.

“Well, all I hope now is to look for a much better year in terms of winning performances. I must thank my coach (Gopi) and the entire support staff for their wonderful support,” signs off guru before joining for another grueling schedule at the Gopi Academy.

More In: Hyderabad | Sport