The decision to move from Kolkata to Pune in January 2015 proved absolutely right for Varun Kapur as he earned himself quite the name. In the last six years, he has established himself as one of the best junior shuttlers, not only in the country, but throughout the world.
After attending a summer camp in 2014 as an 11-year-old, he found Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy (NKBA) to be the perfect destination to hone his skills in badminton. While most boys his age were busy with school and studies, he devoted his entire focus to improving his game on the NKBA courts at Balewadi, near Pune.
His years of hard work and dedication paid rich dividends when he jumped to the world No. 2 ranking in the Under-19 boys singles of Badminton World Federation (BWF).
Eighteen-year-old Varun Kapur has a chance to become world No. 1 when the global governing body updates its rankings after the pandemic.
However, Varun Kapur is not too fussed about trying to achieve the numero uno status in the Under-19 boys singles. He said he would rather focus on improving his status in men’s singles.
In recent history, two Indian players have reached the top of the world junior rankings. In 2017, Lakshya Sen of Uttarakhand became the world No. 1 among the juniors.
Telangana’s Siril Verma, after winning the silver medal at the 2015 World Junior Championship, reached a career high of world no. 1 of the world junior rankings in January 2016. Lakshya Sen’s elder brother, Chirag Sen, was No. 2 in the world among juniors.
“The world No. 1 spot in the juniors is not the priority for me at this moment. It will happen if the BWF updates the frozen rankings or if I play a few more tournaments in the Under-19 category. For me, doing well in the seniors is my main target. After the pandemic, whenever the circuit resumes I will play selected junior tournaments and concentrate more on the seniors,” said Varun Kapur, who has been taking a break at his Kolkata home as the NKBA has been closed down since the first week because of lockdown in Maharashtra.
Giving major credit for his success to his coach Nikhil Kanetkar, Varun Kapur is aiming to carry on his extraordinary achievements into men’s singles too.
“I know many players struggle when they make a transition from juniors to seniors. It is not the easiest of things. There are already established players whom you have to fight but I think with perseverance and hard work it can be achieved. People remember success in the seniors and do not give much importance to the achievements in the junior section. I will give my 100 percent to excel in the men’s singles,” said Varun Kapur.
Tamil Nadu-based duo of Shankar Muthuswamy and Ritwik Sanjivi, along with Meirabba and Rohan Gurbani, will be Varun Kapur’s main competitors as they move on to the seniors.
On the way to becoming the champion in the Uganda International tournament a few months ago, Varun Kapur defeated Shankar Muthuswamy in a well-contested final.
Fitness coach Kaifi Afzal and mental trainer Gayatri Vartak are helping Varun Kapur on his quest to become the best in the country.
“I have improved my speed on the court in the last few years. I am not very strong. I am doing a lot of strength training to help me generate more power in my strokes and smashes. Speed and agility on court are my strong factors,” said Varun Kapur.
“The main object while switching from juniors to seniors will be motivation. Keeping yourself motivated is tough since you might not get results straight away. It’s all about having belief and self-confidence which is required the most. I am prepared to play the waiting game as the established stars will be there to stop your progress,” said Varun Kapur, who is sponsored by Kanetkar Sports Foundation (KSF) and Li-Ning.
Last year, amid the pandemic, Varun Kapur played three tournaments. At the Hungarian international, he finished runner-up, and he emerged as the winner at the Portuguese Juniors. In the Dutch junior international, he could not make it to the final.
Varun Kapur has done really well so far, says coach Nikhil Kanetkar
Varun Kapur’s coach, Nikhil Kanetkar, is quite pleased with his ward’s success so far and is optimistic about his success in the higher category too.
“I think Varun has done well by achieving the world No.2 rank in the U-19 boys singles. However, this should be considered as a stepping stone and the transition into the men’s singles is very important. He needs to continue working hard and make a mark in India in the seniors within the next two years if he wants to reach greater heights in his career. He has the potential to make it big but he needs to convert it to reality which takes time, effort and self belief,” said Nikhil Kanetkar.
The former Olympian is all praise about his trainee’s commitment level and positive attitude.
“I am quite impressed with his achievements in the juniors but he needs to work harder to make it in the seniors. In juniors he will find around ten players who are good enough to give him a fight but in the seniors he will face around hundred better players. It’s an ocean and you have to make it happen with your guts. The way he is developing as a player, I am sure he will make a mark for himself in the seniors too in a matter of few seasons,” added Nikhil Kanetkar.
Varun Kapur is also being supported by the Virat Kohli Foundation who believe the young shuttler has all the potential needed to be a world-beater in the recent future.
Varun Kapur's achievements from 2018-2021
Bronze medal: U-17 National Championships (Odisha), 2019
Bronze medal: Khelo India Games (Guwahati), 2020
Six gold medals in Junior Internationals tournaments
Dubai Juniors, 2018
Slovakia Juniors, 2018
Croatia Juniors, 2019
Cyprus Juniors, 2019
Lithuania Juniors, 2019
Portugal Juniors, 2019
Four silver medals in Junior International Meets
Russia Juniors, 2019
Dubai Juniors, 2019
Portugal Juniors, 2019
Hungary Juniors, 2020
Gold medal: Uganda Senior Internationals, 2021