By Jaydip Sengupta, Staff Writer
If you saw the tall and elegant Anup Sridhar waltzing around the courts in Kuala Lumpur, you wouldn’t believe the biggest success story of this year’s Badminton World Championships was actually playing with a career-threatening foot injury.
The World No 40 — he will have made considerable progress when the new rankings are released — is inflicted with Plantar Fasciitis, formerly known as Policeman’s Heel, an inflammation condition on the underside of the foot.
The injury knocked off almost seven months of playing time last year after the Thomas Cup in February and although he has managed to pull through so far with custom-made orthotic devices, in his case in-soles, Sridhar knows he needs the right size soon to capitalise on his success at the World Championships.
"I will be getting one that will fit me perfectly in a couple of days, before the camp for the India Open starts on Monday," he said from Bangalore, where he was given a fitting reception on his return last Sunday.
The insoles Sridhar wore during the World Championships weren’t perfect fits and he had to play through the pain.
"The good thing about playing in Kuala Lumpur was that the pain was less because of the heat, although it did bother me throughout," said the 25-year-old who knocked out world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and All–England champion Mohammad Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia, before being stopped by eventual champion and World No 1 Lin Dan of China in the quarter-finals.
"For me, it would have been silly to get excited after I had beaten Hidayat. I had made the semi-finals of the German Open and Asian Championships earlier this year and so I needed to prove it was no flash in the pan. Against Dan, the difference was the fitness after I ran him close in the first game," he said.
Sridhar’s next assignment is the high-profile Indian Open which begins on September 4 and understandably, expectations will be high from the current India No 2 and reigning national champion.
"Right now, I am only looking at my first match. Being in front of my home crowd, I know there will be a lot of pressure, but I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself by thinking how far I can progress," he said.
Sridhar’s new-found confidence is the result of his stints in Denmark, where he played for Elite division club Skaelskor and rubbed shoulders with the likes of World No 6 Peter Gade.
"That stint has definitely helped me. I was always ambitious, but the Denmark stint taught me to believe in myself. It’s one thing to have ability and quite another to actually put it to use," he said.