It’s been quite a few hours since 18-year-old Sankar Muthusamy Subramanium scaled new heights in his bustling badminton career by becoming the World No. 1 in the BWF Boys’ Singles rankings – a feat that was long-expected but took a while to happen, but the Tamil Nadu lad isn’t carried away by this at all. Instead, he remains focussed on the larger picture ahead – eager to make bigger ripples still.
“We have been watching it (the ranking) for the last 2 weeks as I was No. 2 there anyway. BWF had kept the rankings frozen. We had an idea that I could become No. 1 but since it wasn’t getting updated, we weren’t too sure,” a well-composed Sankar tells The Bridge, just a day after he added this new feather to his crown by becoming only the fifth Indian to become World No. 1 at the junior level.
“We haven’t spread the news so much. The rank wasn’t updated till later officially. Now, I guess, after Sindhu Akka, Srikanth Anna congratulated me, it feels so nice. I know them because I have played in Premier Badminton League (PBL) and through GoSports, I know some of them,” Sankar conveys, the slightest tinge of excitement rising in his voice at being lauded by the seniors he looks up to.
Having traded the tennis racquet for the badminton one when he was just five, Sankar’s passage into badminton was rather organic when he joined the Fireball Academy in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and came under the coaching wings of Aravindan Samiappan, who still remains by his side, watching his pupil climb such great heights. Moreover, with sport already coursing through his veins, thanks to his father, who was a state-level tennis player, Sankar’s kinship towards badminton was au natural.
But on Tuesday when BWF updated the rankings and Sankar could leap to the top spot, there was something more special about the feeling for the teenager from Tamil Nadu, who had just finished on top in the BAI National Junior Trials in Raipur, Chattisgarh on Monday.
“It was a great feeling to come out on top of the trials and become the World No. 1 the very next day. That was a combined feeling – because I played right then and when this news came, I felt like I am being rewarded for something,” Sankar conveys with a chuckle.
In the BWF Junior rankings, a player’s top 3 junior tournaments are taken into consideration and in that, Sankar had won two out of the three junior events he contested – winning the Russian Open (Junior White Nights International Series) in 2021 and the Iran Junior International Series, earlier this year, making him the hot-favourite for the pole spot in the rankings.
“I won the Russian tournament last year, and the Iran event earlier this year, but those are not so fresh in my memory. Topping the trials and getting the No. 1 rank was a better feeling hence,” Sankar proudly says, having also earned his ticket to the upcoming Junior Badminton World Championships.
Onto bigger goals
Adding to the fervour of Indian badminton which is currently booming, Sankar’s achievement takes him a step closer to joining the club of Srikanth & Co. as well as he awaits transitioning soon enough to the senior circuit.
“The World Championships are the next big thing for me and I will do my best there too. People will have expectations from me now and I would be most eager to deliver,” Sankar says, who considers Alex Lanier from France, Justin from Malaysia, and Alwi Farhan from Indonesia as his toughest competitors in the circuit.
“But my focus will be to do everything to break into the Top 100 of the BWF rankings in the senior level, as soon as possible,” the die-hard Lin Dan worshipper conveyed, his mind set on representing India at the Olympics – either in 2024 Paris or definitely at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“Indians are doing very good now, they are being extremely consistent – with Thomas Cup, Commonwealth Games successes, we are really on the rise. Things have started changing here as more people are taking up badminton professionally, after seeing our seniors like Prannoy Bhaiya, Srikanth Anna, Sindhu Akka, and Lakshya impress so much on that level,” Sankar says.
“Going into the seniors I will want to work harder and be more focussed as the field is very tough. To join the cream of badminton – the top 20-30, I know I will have to put in a lot of effort and I am all up for that,” the World No. 1 readily agrees as he remains eager to fully become a part of the club soon and fetch accolades for the nation with his talent with the racquet.