Chennai-born Ramya Tulasi has been winning State-level tournament for five straight years. Passionate and confident, her years of hard work bore fruit with her selection to the Chennai Smashers team in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) last year.
Ramya’s story, however, began with a childhood hobby. “I started playing badminton as most of the children in my colony would go for badminton coaching and I didn’t have anyone to play with.”
The coach noticed her talent and recommended she join another club to play with better players. The only person to play sport in her family, she was playing at the State and District-level tournaments by the 10th grade.
All work and no play...
As her board exams neared, Ramya’s parents requested she focus on her education. The next couple of years were hard for Ramya, who had to give up the sport she loved.
“There would be so many days when I would just sit in the room so dull and so low. My dad did not like it and after seeing me like that for 3-6 months, he would ask me to go play on the weekends. But those one or two days of practice were not enough to perform at the state or district level even,” says Ramya.
Her hard work paid off and she was admitted to a good college. That out of the way, her father was the one who encouraged her to pick up the sport once more. Going back to playing competitively after such a long break was hard, though.
A hard-fought comeback
“I would lose to people who I used to beat easily," Ramya reveals on her comeback. "There were many days when I just wanted to give up playing. I had gotten into a good college, doing a course I like and I would wonder why I was even playing."
After her return, she was in for a rude surprise at the State tournaments. Taking the losses in stride, she began playing local tournaments to boost her confidence and kept moving forward. Through sheer dedication and hard work, Ramya returned to her previous level over the next two years and would go on to surpass it.
Her way back wasn’t a solitary one though, as she had support from various corners. “My parents were a great support and so was my first coach, M. Jerry Martin. He made me feel good about the way I play and gave me to confidence to do this.”
Rajesh Krishnan (current mixed doubles partner) also played a vital role in encouraging her to play again. Together, they reached the No. 9 rank in India in mixed doubles. However, Ramya is hungry for more.
“Right now, my aim is to get into the top 100 World Rankings. It is in the 200’s but I think I’m capable enough to get into the top 50.”
The PBL dream
Arguably the biggest break for the 21-year-old came her way last year, when she was selected by the Chennai Smashers. “There is a little bit of luck to that but also a lot of hard work into it. The PBL is wonderful. It is like the end result of my hard work,” says Ramya.
Playing alongside teammates like Olympic medallist P. V. Sindhu and Chris and Gabby Adcock changed her perspective on the game. “Initially, I would think you have to be really serious and focussed when you play but I noticed a difference in thinking with many of the players, especially the European players.”
“They would say that when you enjoy the game you automatically do everything right. If I do my 100 percent in practise, I can play about 60 percent of that in a tournament because there is a lot of pressure. But if you enjoy yourself, you play at 200 percent. That is the biggest thing I learnt.”
Having recently graduated from the SSN College of Engineering, Ramya shares a word of advice for aspiring shuttlers. “Don’t take up the sport for someone else. Initially, players start off in a fun-loving way but get stressed once they win a tournament. Don’t think about all that. Just play for yourself and enjoy the game.”