After countering two of India’s best attacking players in two days – Priyanshu Rajawat beaten 21-16, 21-11 after Kidambi Srikanth – Mithun Manjunath completed a dream week at the Senior Nationals. His hand tattoo – a Viking wolf – reads ‘Trust the process’, and after the string of wins in Pune over some of India’s finest, Mithun might well begin to trust what his team at the Padukone academy started 4-5 months ago – slap him into shape to prepare him for the step-up to the international level.
“We’ve changed his diet a bit. He was always on the heavier side, in the lower body especially. Because he believed if he lost bulk, he might lose his strength. He’s changing now,” coach Sagar Chopda would say.
Against Rajawat, Mithun countered by not allowing him too many opportunities to go on his attacking spree – the Dhar lad’s strength. While Srikanth couldn’t be curbed completely in the semis – his smashes still raining down – Mithun cut out all avenues for the aggressive Rajawat. “Priyanshu is also very quick on the net. Mithun countered by keeping him away from the net,” Chopda said. The 24-year-old would respond by keeping the shuttle assiduously in the court.
A first-time finalist, Mithun had also ousted perennial Nationals performer and serial retriever, Sourabh Verma in the quarters. “It’s been a pretty good experience, and beating three big names means it feels great to be a National champion,” Mithun would add.
What struck the most was his absolute calm when playing the attacking duo on back-to-back days. “I used to think a lot earlier. Now I just take it point by point,” he would say, comparing it to times when he could whack the shuttle to pulp and send it wide and long out of frustration from a previous point. “During COVID, I started meditating. But it’s the fitness changes that have brought the results and are a turning point,” he would add.
Asked what he has sacrificed the most, he would quip: “My 6 a.m. sleep!”