Image Credits: @RuhiRaju
Having achieved a Junior world career-high ranking of 15 in 2019, 17-year-old Hyderabad shuttler Ruhi Raju has the potential and skill set to excel at the highest level.
It is a glowing confession. Today, Indian badminton is growing exponentially, with fresh-faced and full of life young shuttlers eager to hold the mantle high and shine bright amongst the rest. One such future star who the country have high hopes for in the coming years is Ruhi Raju.
With a silver medal in women’s singles at Santo Domingo international Open in 2019, a bronze medal at Hungarian Junior International 2019, a silver medal at APACS Kazakhstan Junior U-19 category in 2019, a silver medal at YONEX – Sunrise Bangladesh International Junior 2018, a silver medal at VI Argentina International 2018, bronze medal at Iberdrola Spanish Junior 2018 and USA Junior National Champion title in 2017, the Suchitra Academy International School student is gradually taking Indian women’s badminton by storm thanks to her raw talent, which has been on showcase for many.
Having achieved a Junior world career-high ranking of 15 in 2019, Ruhi Raju has the potential and skillset to excel at the highest level, her ceiling is limitless.
Given Ruhi’s penchant for flair, deceptive game style and her attacking ability, she already appears to develop into a high-quality player.
If at 17 Ruhi possesses this much upside, it is exciting to picture her few years down the line.
You are very young and have quite a few titles under your belt, and I am sure it must have been a quite rollercoaster journey, so tell us about how you got into badminton at the first place, what inspired you as a child to take up professional badminton?
I started badminton as a recreational sport after school. I developed an interest in the sport after I played my first national tournament in 2015. I enjoyed competing and loved the tournament atmosphere. That’s when I decided, I wanted to compete again and again and become a professional badminton player.
Who were your first badminton heroes? What was significant about their achievements or character that you admired?
Lee Chong Wei was my first badminton hero. I loved watching him play and admired how amazing his footwork was and how he would look like he is floating on the court. One thing I loved about his character is that no matter how many matches he lost, he never gave up and he got back up and tried again.
We all know that you are successful in your sport. But the first win and the first trophy is always special. Do you remember your 1st success as a badminton player? If yes, how will you describe that moment?
I got my first trophy when I was 13 years old and I won the under-15 US national championships. I was extremely excited and screamed loud after I won the finals. My heart was racing fast and I couldn't stop smiling. This was the moment that I was waiting for.
What is the role of your coach/parents play in shaping your badminton career?
My coaches taught me how to play the sport and corrected my game in many ways. They have helped me get stronger, faster and improved my strokes.
My parents play a huge role in my badminton career. They have sacrificed a lot of time and put in a lot of effort to take me to the right coaches and trainers to help improve my game. They also made me tough mentally and taught me how to get past injuries and how enjoying the game is the most important part of the journey.
Are you good at your studies as well? If yes, how do you able to manage sports and studies? How’s your school has been supportive of it?
Yes, I am pretty good at studies as well. My school supports me by giving me the study material and I study from home. I take a couple of tuitions to help me out. I go to school to submit assignments and for my exams.
How would you describe your playing style, and which shuttler would you compare it to?
I have a deceptive game style and I love to play attacking. I would compare my playing style to either Carolina Marin or Chen Yufei.
What would you say is one aspect of your game that is a real strength for you?
My attack is my strength in my game.
What's your approach when an opponent suddenly starts playing opposite to his strengths?
I take the opportunity and try to finish the game as quickly as I can.
What goes through your mind during a long rally?
I just try to keep my calm and play it safe. When I get an opportunity, I try to finish the point.
Even if a person reaches the pinnacle, there is always scope for improvement. And in sports, you should improve daily. A healthy competition or rivalry often helps a sportsperson to improve. So, who is that shuttler with whom you have a healthy rivalry?
I have a healthy rivalry with all my counterparts from different parts of the world, but If I have to pick one it would be Jacqueline Lima from Brazil.
How does participation in badminton or sports generally benefit other areas of life?
Sport in general makes you mentally and physically strong. It also helps you learn that there are ups and downs in life and you need to get through them with a strong mind.
In your professional career, which has been 2 standout moments that have made you feel on top of the world?
I was on top of the world when I won my first US National Championship title and the second most standout moment was when, in a tournament, my foot was bleeding and I strained my hip, I could barely walk, yet, I played and won three matches and played the finals in the senior category.
Do you have any snacks that you miss when in training camp and what is your typical daily diet when in camp?
I love desserts and cheese which I crave and miss a lot. I usually have milk, eggs, fruits and dry fruits in the morning. Pasta or rice and curry with some yoghurt for lunch. Juices if I feel hungry later in the evening meat and veggies for dinner.
What are your plans and goals for your life in badminton? How do you see your future in the sport? Do you plan to stay involved in badminton for many years?
I want to continue to play professional badminton in the future and my goal is to be World No.1 and win many titles in the senior circuit including the World Championship and the Olympics.
Winning an Olympic medal or World Championship medal?
Which celebrity do you want to team up with for a doubles match?
Tai Tzu Ying
Non-Badminton players that you admire the most?
Kobe Bryant and Muhammad Ali
What is your go-to shot?