ISP Chandigarh Bureau
Born in a family of teachers in Rohtak district of Haryana, Unnati is a rare kid to keep pace with. Tracking Unnati Hooda’s progress in the badminton court is a sports writer’s delight. This 15-year old child prodigy from Haryana is already making news and is a promising future-star for India. She is struggling with consistency but her mentors appreciate her grit and discipline for the game.
Unnati became a major story for sports enthusiasts when she made a highly competitive debut at the India International Challenge in 2021, where she finished runner-up. Her power packed action in the Odisha Open Super 100 women’s singles final in January 2022 further brought focus on her performance. She defeated her competitor 21-18, 21-11 to win her maiden BWF World Tour title.
Professionals in the field say that something unique about Unnati is that she already knows what she wants and she is making waves on the BWF junior circuit speaks with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
“I want to add consistency to my game. I can pick up more skills over time, but I want to attain consistency early. I have to work harder,” Unnati told magazine Sportstar while preparing for the Asian Junior Championships. She is ranked in the top ten in women’s singles on the BWF World Junior Rankings and has shown signs of considerable progress.
With her Odisha Open BWF World Tour title in 2022 at the age of 15, Unnati also broke a rare record. She became the youngest Indian to win a Super 100 badminton title. She overtook two of the biggest Indian names in the game Saina and Sindhu. Saina was 16 years old when she won the Philippines Open in 2007, while Sindhu was 18 when she bagged the Malaysian Grand Prix title in 2013.
Unnati’s father, Upkar Hooda is a former university-level badminton player. Her grandparents were professors. Her father saw in Unnati a rare chance to revive his passion for the game and encouraged to pick up the game at the early age of seven. He enrolled Unnati at Chhotu Ram Academy, where she has been training under coach Prabesh Kumar since 2015.
She started with both singles and doubles and paired up with Palak Arora before becoming a full-time singles player during the COVID-19 pandemic when the academy was closed. She trained on the street outside her home for nearly two years before getting into a professional court.
This year has not been very encouraging for Unnati yet. She and four other Indian single players failed to make it to the main draw of the ongoing Thailand Masters 2023 after defeats in qualifiers.