A dream come true: Bhat

A dream come true: Bhat

Attacking game made difference, says Bangalorean

A dream come true: Bhat

When it comes to winning Grand Prix Gold titles few would have bet on Arvind Bhat, with top women shuttlers Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu emerging as the favourite picks. However, Bhat defied the odds and stunned everyone when he won the German Open on Sunday, conjuring all his experience in edging out Hans-Kristian Vittinghus 24-22, 19-21, 21-11 in a thrilling final.

Having become the second men’s Indian shuttler to win a Grand Prix Gold title outside India after K Srikanth’s heroics at the Thailand GP last year, the 34-year-old said the entire week has been like a dream.

“It’s a dream come true,” Bhat told Deccan Herald on Monday before emplaning from Germany to Bangalore. “It’s not often that Indian male shuttlers win GP gold title. Of course, Saina (Nehwal) keeps doing it regularly but not us.

“What makes it more incredible is that I’m the first Indian after Gopi (P Gopichand) to win in Europe in the last 13 years.

“It just shows how difficult the task is. Honestly, when I went to Mulheim an der Ruhr, I never expected I would emerge champion. I just kept playing hard and the results came along. It’s unbelievable.”

Arvind, who has been training on his own at the Karnataka Badminton Association for the last three years with just occasional sessions with national coach Gopichand, felt his attacking game made the difference in Germany where, barring the opening round, everyone he felled were ranked considerably higher than him.

Ranked 87 in the world at the start of the tournament, Bhat beat Ari Trisnanto in the opening round, ousted third seed Yun Hu in the second, crushed Daren Liew in the pre-quarters, eased past 14th seed Viktor Axelsen in the last-eight, outlasted 15th-seeded Tien Chen Chou in the semifinals before prevailing past Vittinghus in the title clash.

“I just kept playing a very attacking game from the very onset.
“The biggest positive was that whatever I did worked successfully. It all pieced together brilliantly. While I’ve matured mentally and skillwise, my legs were able to sustain the load.

“At 35, things are not very easy, especially in badminton where stamina is extremely important. Nowadays the game has become so fast that you need to be on top of your game every moment. I’m just happy physically my body was able to hold out and I could execute my plans on the court.”

Although buoyed by the success which has come at the twilight of his career, Bhat chose to take it one step at a time.

“I’m not sure if I can win another GP title. There are a lot of important tournaments this season, but I’m not counting too big. I will continue to train hard and take it month by month.

“Since I’m all on my own, I need to plan and strategise well.

“Having said that, I’m definitely not done yet. I’m hungry for more glory and will strive hard for it.”