Swiss Open badminton: Priyanshu Rajawat uses his phenomenal pace to seal quarters berth | Badminton News

India's Priyanshu Rajawar defeated China's Lan Xi Lei 21-14, 21-13

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Priyanshu Rajawat has been like a blur on the badminton courts of Basel these last two days.

Picked out by Pullela Gopichand at a scouting camp in Madhya Pradesh well before he turned 10, and solely for his foot and hand-speed, the 22-year-old from Dhar is making his sheer pace count. On Thursday, he packed off Chinese Lan Xi Lei 21-14, 21-13 to make the Swiss Open quarterfinals. But the youngster, known for his conventional stick smashes, has been increasingly using the cross-angles on the backhand, with whiplash speed, to hurry opponents.

Indonesian Anthony Ginting arrived on the scene a decade ago, and everyone was talking about his incredible speed. Loh Kean Yew even went on to win a World Championship title with freakish pace on his court movements. The Singaporean has mellowed down a tad, and Ginting doesn’t need to rely just on speed. So Rajawat has taken over the mantle of a streaking, dashing, whizzing bullet game on the circuit with a breathless repertoire of shots.

Of particular blink-and-miss significance is his inverted ‘K-shot’, which doesn’t rely so much on power as timing – that’s after he hurriedly gets into position to deliver it, like a fast-forwarded reel. Firstly, he gets under the shuttle as if he’s on roller-blades. The striding is precise, and the right knee goes across the left leg as the stroke is played mid-motion. The right arm then goes across the body for a K-shaped backswing silhouette. The shuttle is struck at a high point, and Rajawat gets such an incredible angle on the backhand and a whipping connect, that it lands within bounds steeply, but at giddy speed.

India's Priyanshu Rajawat returns a shot during the men's singles Round of 32 badminton match against compatriot Lakshya Sen at the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2024, in New Delhi. (PTI) India’s Priyanshu Rajawat returns a shot during the men’s singles Round of 32 badminton match against compatriot Lakshya Sen at the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2024, in New Delhi. (PTI)

The K-shot is bound to become the talk of the town because of how stable Rajawat remains despite operating at very high acceleration, fuelling speed into the shuttle. What a spectator sees is the player dashing to the left of the court, and the shuttle fired to the right in the blink of an eye.

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Unique style

Rajawat has often been compared to Kidambi Srikanth, who boasts of some exquisite strokes and technical proficiency. But the smooth seamless execution of Rajawat’s K-shot owes a lot to his coaches in Hyderabad, who have taught him to harness his natural speed for some sensational shot-making. The backhand and its prologue is more HS Prannoy than Srikanth, though Rajawat doesn’t have the same power in his across-the-body smashes yet.

While Lakshya Sen, who’s most likely headed to the Olympics, has speed in his defence and in that explosive hop at the net, Rajawat is bringing raw pace to the exchanges that will likely trouble most on the circuit. He also has a lean, mean across- the-body parallel flank defence which sees the shuttle travel quite speedily over the net.

While he raced to take the opener, Rajawat’s pace only got crisper in the second game. Very early in the second, Rajawat played a lightning fast rally. He chased a shuttle on the right flank that was most likely dropping out, dragging it back into play at the last second. But even under defensive duress as the Chinese went a little bonkers hitting, Rajawat zipped across the court to end the exchange with his speed-kill. There were variations of the aerial acceleration at 6-3 and 7-4 as the Chinese realised rather slowly that his opponent was too fast for his liking.

Rajawat has the conventionally-pretty strokes too. And they are becoming some sort of a trademark in his typical candy pink gear. But it is in the speed that he brings to the court in both defence, anticipation and attack that he’s proving to be deceptive. Unlike most of his opponents, he is unlikely to trade in power strokes. Unlike Sen, he won’t scramble for the round- the-head whip either. But his pace can crunch reaction times for opponents, who have to simultaneously handle his fairly error-free blitzes.

Indian men’s singles boasts a great variety and brains amongst its top names and talent in stroke-making. But the one name that has drifted to the sidelines is Sameer Verma, also from Dhar. It is from Verma that Rajawat picked his love for speed, and honed it with humility. Coaches at the Gopichand academy have had to teach him to master speed because he invariably hared around and rushed his strokes without heeding to balance. But this year, the blur-from-Dhar is operating at optimum speed.

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