BENGALURU: Transitioning from the junior to senior level is always tricky, despite the glories that athletes amass in their younger days. Their fitness, skills and mental strength are put to test in the transition period. Bengaluru’s budding shuttler, Mithun Manjunath too, had faced a similar challenge in his first full-year in the senior circuit in 2017.
The 20-year-old faced this reality before joining senior players. But the youngster worked on his fitness and the results started showing.Two semifinal finishes in Badminton World Federation (BWF) International Challenge series in 2017 boosted his confidence. “It was definitely difficult initially when I made my transition to the senior level. Results weren’t coming the way I expected. I wasn’t able to match the pace of senior players on the circuit. I worked on my speed and fitness, and that helped. Though the progress has been good since then, I still have to improve,” says the Prakash Padukone Academy ward.
Manjunath, who started playing the sport as a six-year-old kid in a summer camp, has made steady progress. In his second year on the senior circuit, he won two back-to-back all-India senior ranking titles.
He has continued the good show in the international level as well, reaching semifinals of Russian Open and Vietnam Open (both BWF Super 100 tournaments). “Last year was great in terms of my progress. I did well in the international tournaments against seeded players. It gave me confidence and self-belief. Now, I have to be consistent and perform better,” says the India number 9.
The youngster was also part of the champion team Bengaluru Raptors in the recently-concluded Premier Badminton League (PBL). The Bengaluru lad didn’t get to play a single match and shared the dugout with the likes of Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth, Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, which helped him understand the game better and tackle pressure situations in a match.
“It was really great to be a part of the team with such players. Hendra is an Olympic champion while Srikanth has been the World number 1. They have encouraged me and I have learnt a lot of things from them,” said the world number 96, who achieved his career-best rank of 81 in November. “I would have liked to play but I was not experienced to play in such demanding matches. The experience will help in the coming years.”
Now, Manjunath targets improvement in his endurance to do better at the BWF Grand Prix events. He also wants to break into top 50 of the world rankings by the end of this year. “I want to build up on the good show in 2018. My target is now to improve my endurance so that I can face the challenge of long games. Next, the target will be to do well in the Super 100 series and improve my rankings so that I can play in the Super 300 series,” he says.