Interview with Akshay Dewalkar: "I hope to break into Top 10 by the end of 2016"
Indian men’s doubles player Akshay Dewalkar has been riding on a wave of impressive performances. The 27-year-old Mumbai lad was part of the national team that stunned China 3-2 in the recently-held Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad.
Akshay, who pairs up with Pranaav Jerry Chopra, had runners-up finish at the 2016 SAF Games in Guwahati. The pair of Akshay Dewalkar and Pranaav Jerry Chopra had a giant-killing run at the 2016 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow, where they scripted consecutive wins over higher ranked opponents.
Dewalkar who along with Chopra has been featuring in men’s doubles for the country since 2011 spoke about his game and much more in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. It must have been a ‘big high’ stunning China in the quarter-finals of the recently-concluded Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad before you guys went to beat Malaysia, but unfortunately, lost to Indonesia in the semifinals.
It was a great feeling to beat China (we won 3-2) as they are a formidable side. K Srikanth was in fine form winning his singles match and even Pranoy and Jayaram pull off wins. It’s a creditable achievement to reach the semifinals after we prevailed over Malaysia 3-2 before we lost to Indonesia 1-3. Pranav and I lost to Angga Pratama-Ricky Karanda Suwardi in the semifinals in the men’s doubles but overall India performed quite well.
Q. At the 2016 SAF Games in Guwahati, you lost to fellow Indians – Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy to settle for the silver medal.
Look, the competition at the 2016 SAF Games was not that stiff - we were expected to fare well and our performance was on expected lines.
Q. Indian badminton has two strong men’s doubles pairs – you and Pranaav Chopra and Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy. Do you think the presence of two robust doubles pairs creates healthy competition?
Healthy competition is always good for any player. Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy are doing well for the country and we are also trying to do our best for the country.
Q. BAI has appointed Malaysian Tan Kim Her as the country’s new doubles coach.
Tan Kim Her’s presence is really helping our doubles players. We are learning to strategize better and getting tips from him on how to reach to different situations during a match. All players are benefiting from his coaching.
Q. You and Pranaav had a fabulous run at the 2016 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold, where you upset three higher ranked opponents en route to reaching the final where you lost to Malaysia’s Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V Shem.
It was a superb tournament for us. We first accounted for the Indonesian world number 10 pair of A Pratama and R K Suwardi in the quarterfinals – subsequently we put it across the world number 8 Danish pair of M Conrad-Petersen and M P Kolding in the semifinals before we overwhelmed South Korean world number 7 pair of Kim Sa-rang and Kim Gi-Jung in the last four stage. Creating three upsets on the trot was a great feeling but unfortunately we came up short in the final.
Q. You and Pranaav Jerry Chopra are currently ranked 34 in the world. What goals do you have for 2016?
We will keep working hard and hope to break into the top-10 by 2016-end.
Q. The Premier Badminton League (PBL) was a great advertisement for Indian badminton. Your thoughts.
It was great to see the league happen after a long gap. The matches were really exciting and spectators also loved every bit of the action. I’m sure PBL will enhance the popularity of badminton in the country.
Q. What are the areas you guys are looking to improve?
We want to focus on a lot of areas. We want to improve our net play as well as our court movements. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us and we will keep putting in the hard yards.
Q. As a men’s doubles pair, what do you think are your biggest strengths?
I think both of us are attacking players and that makes a lot of difference to the way we play. Our attacking game stands us in good stead at all times.