Meet Tanya Hemanth: The Bengaluru girl touted to be the next big star of Indian badminton

Tanya Hemanth in action
Tanya Hemanth in action

Tanya Hemanth caught everyone's attention in March this year, as she stormed into the women’s singles final of the Polish Open International Challenge.

A seventeen-year-old player reaching the final of a senior international tournament from the qualifying stages is bound to catch the eyeballs.

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The four-day tournament at Gniezno, Poland could turn out to be a turning point in the career of the Bengaluru-based rising star. She is currently ranked No. 12 in the world Under-19 girls singles.

Although the tournament was hectic for Tanya Hemanth as she played seven matches in just four days. The young star toppled sixth seed Martina Repiska of Slovakia 22-20, 21-15 in the quarter-finals and Gayle Mahulette of the Netherlands 15-21, 21-19, 21-15 in the semis. Hemanth's dream run was halted in the summit clash by second seed Kristin Kuuba of Estonia.

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The world No. 51 stopped the six-match winning streak by using her vast experience of playing on the European circuit. Tanya Hemanth gave her best but it was not enough against the higher-ranked 24-year-old Kristin Kuuba, who won 24-22, 21-14 after a grueling 43-minute battle.

Strong showings in Poland and Uganda boosted Tanya Hemanth's confidence

Hemanth's inspired performance at the Polish Open had come on the back of a brilliant showing in the previous tournament. She performed well to reach the semi-finals of the Uganda International Series at Kampala in February earlier this year. These back-to-back performances boosted her confidence a great deal.

Tanya Hemanth, a student at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, went down fighting against her Indian counterpart Anupama Upadhyaya in the Uganda semis. The young qualifier won the first game but couldn't maintain the tempo and lost 21-12, 16-21, 15-21 in 40 minutes.

Speaking about the loss in the Uganda semis, Tanya Hemanth, who is ranked 257 in the world after reaching a career-best world ranking of 251 earlier this year, said:

“I should have won that match. It was within my grasp. After claiming the first game, I was playing well in the second game too but somehow could not keep my focus and allowed my opponent to come back into the match. I was very disappointed with my effort that day.”

Tanya Hemanth, who idolizes world No.1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, won her first title in 2018 at the Dubai Junior International Series. She then captured a silver medal at Cyprus Junior in 2019 and a bronze medal in both the singles and doubles in Dubai a few months later.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has frozen the world rankings due to the pandemic. This has prevented players like Tanya Hemanth from not remaining static in their spots for the last year.

“I am sure when the BWF updates its rankings I will move to the No. 2 position because I have accumulated a lot of points in the last few months. I have now decided to play only in the senior category as my coaches suggested concentrating on the women’s singles. That’s the reason I have chalked out the program which will help me improve my senior rankings by the end of this year,” said Tanya Hemanth.

Tanya Hemanth has been churning out impressive performances in the last few years which has helped her represent the country in the Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 teams in various tournaments.

Tanya Hemanth in action
Tanya Hemanth in action
“My career wins started in 2014 when I won the All India Under-13 girls doubles held at Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu. The next major title was in Kakinada when I won the All India Under-15 girls singles, beating Janhavi Kanitkar of Maharashtra in the finals. I won the U-15 doubles at Jaipur and was selected to represent India in the Asian Sub-Junior (Under-15) Badminton Championships in Myanmar. In the same year in the U-15 Nationals at Tenali, I won the doubles and finished third in the singles,” said Tanya Hemanth.

The hard-working teenager continued her consistent performances in the U-17 and U-19 groups too to emerge as one of the most promising shuttlers in the domestic circuit.

“In 2019, I won two consecutive All India U-17 doubles titles at Imphal and Guwahati leading to my selection for the Sub Junior Asian Championship held at Surabaya, Indonesia. I was the bronze medallist in the U-19 girls singles in three All India junior tournaments held at Bangalore. I triumphed in doubles at Chandigarh. These results helped me to get selected for the Dutch and German Open in 2019,” said Tanya Hemanth.

Although Tanya Hemanth performed well in the doubles category, she has now totally stopped playing doubles since 2020. PPBA chief coach U Vimal Kumar has advised her to just concentrate on the women’s singles. She admitted that ever since she joined PPBA there has been a huge change in her approach and game.

The rising star started playing badminton at the age of eight under the guidance of Murali and Siddharth before shifting to the Sports Academy of Krishnakumar.

“In June 2020 I shifted to PPBA where I got to play with players from all over India under the best coaches. Thanks to the PPBA team, my court time, fitness and strength improved a lot under their guidance. Because of this, my performance in Uganda and Poland was more than satisfactory,” said Tanya Hemanth.

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Edited by Parimal