Rohan Gurbani, lone ranger among Nagpur boys on national badminton circuit

NAGPUR: It is not easy to be a lone ranger. Against all odds, he or she has to battle and run the show. Rohan Gurbani has been sailing in the same boat. The dashing teenager is the only city boy who is shining at the national-level for the last couple of years.

Contrary to the female category where there are at least half a dozen city players making their mark on the national and international circuit, Rohan, 17, is alone on the big stage as far boys are concerned.

Establishing himself as probably the best player of his age in the country, Rohan finished a creditable runner-up in the Under-19 boys singles during the recently concluded 44th Junior National Badminton Championship at Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh.

Starting as ninth seed, Rohan was on a giant-killing mission last week and stormed into the final without losing a single game.

In the summit clash with his training partner of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, Rohan played out of his skin and gave a big scare to the top seed Maisnam Meiraba.

The Manipur youngster stretched himself fully and overcame the spirited challenge from Nagpur lad to post a hard-fought 21-18, 21-19 in 54 minutes to clinch the title.

On a scholarship of Air India for last few months, Rohan impressed all with his display including Utsav Mishra. The Air India chief coach and former Indian shuttler Mishra praised Rohan and believed it will be the turning point of his career.

"The recently concluded Junior Nationals will definitely add a lot to Rohan's confidence. Before the tournament as he spoke to me about his back pain, at that time only I told him to go one by one as and when it comes. Better let's just focus on points instead of even thinking about the match. This helped him not taking to any match pressure," Mishra told TOI on Saturday.

In the pre-quarterfinal, Rohan stunned second seeded K Sathish Kumar in straight games 21-14, 22-20 which boosted his confidence a great deal.

"Since shuttle was slow so idea was to push Sathish in a corner and then get the point. I told him to just keep shuttle in play. It worked very well. In the quarters against his practice pal Dhruv Rawat, the strategy was different and I asked Rohan to engage his opponent in long rallies.

"Dhruv lost his steam and gave the match to Rohan 21-17, 21-11," said Mishra, one of the only two players who had defeated Pullela Gopichand in India during their playing days. Brimming with condifence, Roahn demolished his semifinal rival Bidya Sagar Salam 21-11, 21-9 quite easily to make it to his maiden final.

"One could see pressure on Rohan as Bidya got couple off good victories on his way to reach semifinal. Here Rohan executed fine sharp strokes well against Bidya who is basically a defensive player and loves to engage his opponents in long rallies. Those sharp strokes gave superior edge to Rohan's game," added Mishra.
In the final, he was to meet hot favourite Meiraba, who was in a superb form and got few international victories in his kitty too. Describing the final, Mishra said Rohan gave his best but could not get the better of his opponent.
"Rohan started the game with few unforced errors and Meiraba getting some fine smashes down the line. This was the time when I told Rohan win or lose is secondary but you push him to his limits. This really worked and he played the best match of his life," said Mishra.
"Both the finalists were almost at par and we could see some real nice rallies. Despite defeat, Rohan was highly motivated after the match and I could see the shine of confidence on his face after the match. Surely this tournament is a big boost for Rohan's confidence and he will be a changed player in future," added Mishra.

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