PBL 2020: Tanvi Lad maneuvers tricky journey littered with roadblocks post knee surgery
Lucknow: World No 116 Tanvi Lad wasn’t jittery but excited as she readied for her women’s singles match against reigning world champion PV Sindhu. “I was looking forward to the match. I’ve always enjoyed playing in Lucknow and have performed well here in the past,” said Lad. “Coming back from injury, it’s important for me to get some tough matches under my belt.” Lad was referencing her right-knee injury, which required corrective surgery in April 2018 and six months of rehab before she could step out on the court again.
In 2017, Lad was ranked 49 in the world rankings and was the third-best ranked women’s singles player from India, after PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Being sidelined due to injury meant that by the time she regained full fitness, her ranking had plummeted to 264, in December 2018. When she stepped on the court for Awadhe Warriors, to play against Sindhu of Hyderabad Hunters in the Premier Badminton League 2020 (PBL), the gap in both players’ rankings was huge. Lad, ranked 116 in the world, is a world away from Sindhu, the top-ranked Indian and World No 6. It was a colossal mismatch on paper.
For Lad, however, the match was a fresh installment in her rivalry with the 24-year-old Sindhu. “Sindhu and I go way back. We had a fierce rivalry when we were competing on the junior circuit.” “Of course, she took off and became the player she is today. It was bound to be a tough match and I gave it my all,” said Lad, after losing her match 15-8, 15-8. The gulf in both players’ skills was evident at the outset. The cross-court smash came early from Sindhu, leaving Lad no chance but to see the shuttle kiss the tramlines for a winner. Barring some artsy drops off her backhand at the net, Lad couldn’t do much to arrest her downfall. Sindhu stormed into the mid-game interval of the first game, ahead 8-1. The rallies gained some heat thereafter as Lad tried to push past her imposing opponent. The Warriors shuttler tried to prevent the World No 6 from landing her smashes by luring her to the net in the second game. Lad even brought the deficit down to just three points at 6-9.
However, she could only win two more points in the game as Sindhu's superior shot-making helped her finish the match effortlessly in favour of Hyderabad Hunters, who went on to win the tie against Awadhe Warriors 2-1. Asked about her takeaways from the match, Lad conceded that she was far from playing at her best. “Post my injury, I’ve had to reinvent my game to ensure that I don’t put much pressure on my knee joint. These are technical errors, requiring biomechanical corrections in my footwork,” said Lad. “I’ve come a long way since the injury but it’s a process. The technical corrections will take some time.” Lad, who’ll turn 27 this month, has had a tough road since she first burst onto the world stage by winning the Bahrain International tournament in 2013.
Even as India has embraced women’s badminton, celebrating the success of PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal on the BWF World Tour, Lad’s journey is far removed from the spotlight. In 2016, Lad, who hails from Mumbai, opened up about the harrowing time she had faced in looking for sponsors who could help foot the financial costs that come with competing as a professional badminton player.