Copenhagen, October 23: India’s no.1 Chetan Anand scored the biggest victory of his career with a straight-sets win over Indonesian world no.5 Sony Dwi Kuncoro at the Danish Open Super Series. Chetan’s win propelled him into the quarterfinals, where he will face either Eric Pang or Kenneth Jonassen. This is one of the biggest match wins in Indian badminton, ranking alongside Aravind Bhat’s defeat of Kenneth Jonassen and Anup’s defeats of Taufik Hidayat and Hafiz Hashim at last year’s World Championships.
The latest wins come on the back of a strong run by Chetan in Europe. The Indian has already won three tournaments, including the Grand Prix at Bitburger, and reached two finals.
I call Jwala’s number and she picks it up. She’s in Denmark. “Won’t it cost you to receive incoming calls?” I ask.
“That’s okay,” she says. “What do you want to know?”
“Arif Sir is travelling with us; he watched Sony’s last match and advised Chetan to attack his body, and to play at the net. This is obviously his biggest win.” Arif is Chetan’s long-time coach.
Chetan’s on a hot streak ever since he reached the final of the India Open on home turf at Hyderabad. He beat upcoming Chinese Chen Yu in the quarters — the first time that an Indian has upstaged a top-level Chinese since Gopi in 2000-2001. Since the India Open in March, Chetan has won three tournaments, including the Spanish Open, Czech International and the Bitburger Open, besides losing in the final of Toulouse and Dutch Opens.
The win over Sony is huge — for Sony is the World Championships runner-up and the world no.5. He plays a hard, physical game, full of big jump smashes. Chetan must have caught him at the net consistently.
I call Vimal and he sounds surprised and happy. “Chetan beat Sony? That’s an excellent result,” he says. “Chetan’s in great form now, you know.He’s in the prime of his career. That’s why I always say Indians peak after 25. He even has the chance to win the Danish Super Series. This is very good for Indian badminton.”
I tell Vimal it’s been a super season for Indian shuttlers. Saina has set new standards, while Aditi Mutatkar, Neha Pandit among the girls, and Chetan, Aravind Bhat, P Kashyap, Guru Sai Dutt and Ajay Jayaram among the boys have been performing well. “Yes, Jwala and Diju too have played well in the mixed,” Vimal says.
I have a feeling 2008 could be the turnaround year for Indian badminton. Saina will crack the top-10 soon; Chetan’s already in the top-20. His talent has been undoubted ever since he took up the game, but he has always been reckoned to be a trifle lazy. Since January, when he won the nationals, he appears to have gained a hunger that he never had earlier. He can even break into the top-10.
The next All England will be the one to watch.