Chetan Anand looks to inch his way back to top

Mumbai: Former men`s national badminton champion Chetan Anand is aiming to use the Tata Open India International Challenge in progress here as the first step towards regaining top spot in the country after an ankle injury halted his career.

"I am not looking too far ahead. I got operated on my ankle for a growth that pained me when I jumped and landed and had tried to make comebacks without regaining full fitness. This is the first tournament where I feel fully fit. My fitness level is good," said 33-year-old Anand after crossing his first hurdle as the sixth seed in the tournament.

Anand, who won the national singles crown four times between 2004 and 2010, defeated Ketan Chahal 21-18 21-7 in 35 minutes today to enter the men`s second round where he will meet Mohammed Afjan Rasheed on friday for a place in the quarterfinals.

The Hyderabad shuttler said he got injured at the peak of his game when his world ranking was 11.

"It was very frustrating. I tried to come back and played tournaments without recovering fully. I am currently focusing on this tournament, the senior nationals and then the Syed Modi Memorial Indian Grand Prix. I feel I can do well in these tournaments," said Anand.

Anand, who is employed with ONGC and was married to world championship bronze medal winning doubles player Jwala Gutta before they separated, has recently had a child from his second marriage and said he wants to spend more time with his family.

"My first aim is to make the semifinals of the Nationals. I don`t feel I am 30-plus. I have learnt to stay positive. I will be concentrating on singles play only," said Anand.

He also said he would be taking regular breaks in between tournaments to spend time for training and fitness drills.

Asked how so many good men players have emerged in India, he credited the phenomenon to regular international exposure as well as to the new trend of coaches, physios travelling with the players.

Another former top player Anup Sridhar, who played in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, is also on a comeback trail at the age of 30 and won his first round encounter against Indonesian Nathaniel Ernestan Sunistyo without much fuss 21-12 21-5 in the tournament being played at the Cricket Club of India.

"I have had a decent set of results this year. I won the Czech international tournament in September which has been my best result. I have had a lot of injuries. I am still not hundred per cent. I am going to play in the nationals," said the 30-year-old Bangalore shuttler.

He won his fourth career title when he clinched the Yonex Czech International tournament, beating Indra Bagus Ade Chandra of Italy 21-11 21-16 in the final.

Anup credited national coach and former All England singles champion P Gopichand for the resurgence in the men`s game.

"I feel it is because of Gopi. He has been at the top and knows it all. Not all great players can teach others, but Gopi can. He is among the world`s best coaches if not the best," he said.

He also welcomed the start of Indian Badminton League and said rubbing shoulders with top shuttlers from other countries has been a big learning curve for the young Indian players.