Having the cake and eating it too

Shuttler PC Thulasi celebrates 20th birthday with a title win at all-India senior ranking against Gokhale

It was the early heady-days of Saina Nehwal's emergence. Her reputed, power-packed smashes often preceded her arrival at tournaments - both local and international, and Indian badminton was being talked of in unlikely manners; credited with having gained muscle. Against this backdrop, and in Nehwal's dazzling wake at the World Junior Championships in Pune in 2008, walked in two scrawny teenagers. Hunched and disappearing under the weight of his kitbag, Guru Saidutt still ensured that his diving defence and quick feet took him right through to the Worlds' semis. But looking severly gaunt and inviting worried, pitiful glances over what future she had in this game, PC Thulasi jutted out her chin like a turtle would stick out its neck and proclaimed she would do quite alright in life. "I used to look very thin and small. No one expected me to grow tall," Thulasi says matter-of-factly, on a day when she has picked the all-India senior ranking badminton title in the city, beating a field that had India's entire next-rung, save PV Sindhu, widely labelled as the next-Saina.

The only time Thulasi recalls crying court-side was when she'd lost to Sindhu in a junior national final.

On Wednesday though, Thulasi was all shy smiles as she picked her second seniors title - incidentally both coming in Mumbai, making the city her luckiest venues, even as the National Sports Club of India makes a strong pitch to host the Super Series next year. Having started as an inconspicuous teenager her own confidence had needed a supplementing infusion of belief which coach P Gopichand happily extended - based on nothing more than her willingness to work hard, a quality the national coach puts a lot of store on. Having achieved her biggest seniors domestic win - en route claiming the wily Trupti Murgunde and the gritty Arundhati Pantwane - Thulasi proved that her core of determination was always going to be bankable.

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