...in Nehwal's dazzling wake at the World Junior Championships in Pune in 2008, walked in two scrawny teenagers. Hunched and disappearing under the weight of his kitbag, Guru Saidutt still ensured that his diving defence and quick feet took him right through to the Worlds' semis. But looking severly gaunt and inviting worried, pitiful glances over what future she had in this game, PC Thulasi jutted out her chin like a turtle would stick out its neck and proclaimed she would do quite alright in life. "I used to look very thin and small. No one expected me to grow tall," Thulasi says matter-of-factly, on a day when she has picked the all-India senior ranking badminton title in the city, beating a field that had India's entire next-rung, save PV Sindhu, widely labelled as the next-Saina.
The only time Thulasi recalls crying court-side was when she'd lost to Sindhu in a junior national final.
.."We do a lot of weight training, and I've gained in strength as well," she says, adding with a wink, "and I suddenly grew tall also, which was very nice."
...what really got Thulasi into plenty of trouble was her faulty grip - an awkward flexion of her elbows and shoulder, in tow, when she played the strokes. "We have been working on correcting it since it increased the reaction time of contact with the shuttle because my arm took a longer curve than necessary. It's still work in progress," Thulasi admits, now focussed on the nuances of technique, now that her body-type doesn't give the impression of a weakling taking on the onerous task of smashing the shuttle, anymore.
... Known to be the tidiest of all campers at Hyderabad and generally quiet in conversations, Thulasi is known to possess a dry sense of humour...
...Her drop-shots and attacking game are her favourite travel companions, and on days like this one - her 20th birthday, they are neatly summoned, and then packed back, traded for a winning smile on a face that doesn't seem bony anymore.