From Hobby to Passion: Inside the Mind & Sport of Muskaan Khan, 17-year-old Badminton Prodigy

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Meet Muskaan Khan, a rising Indian shuttler in U-19 badminton circuit. At just 17, she’s making waves with her remarkable skills and unwavering dedication. Hailing from Karnataka, Muskaan has already clinched numerous regional and national championships. On and off the court, her agility, sportsmanship, and determination make her a standout athlete and an inspiration to her peers. She is incredibly fast and agile, showing exceptional speed on her feet. Muskaan is now striving to make a name for herself in the international circuit.

Muskaan is ranked #59 globally,#26 in India and #2 rank in Karnataka State in all 3 categories. Most recently, she secured the Gold Medal at the South Zone Championships in Coimbatore. Furthermore, she was also selected as one of the Top 16 players in India for the Asian Games 2023 Selection Trials in New Delhi.

In 2023, she had her breakthrough year, competing in various countries, including Mongolia, Japan, and China. Moving forward, she’s poised to proudly carry the Indian flag in many more international tournaments.

But that’s just a brief introduction; we want to hear more from Muskaan herself.

In this Part-1 of her interview, let’s dive deeper into her journey.

Can you tell our audience about yourself a bit more than what we did just know.

My name is Muskaan Khan. I am 17 years old, and I started playing badminton professionally, about five years back. And as soon as I started playing, it was basically a hobby at the starting but now it’s just become an integral part of my life. I started playing nationals under 17 two years back, and now I’m slowly transitioning into the international circuit. My first out of India tournament was in China this year (2023), which was a phenomenal experience. Following that, I competed in Japan and Mongolia, both of which were valuable learning experiences. Japan was excellent and I learnt a lot from there. The opponents I believe were just born to play badminton. The overall experience was really good. 

Pure Grit and Glory: Muskaan’s Winning Moment

This is about your foray into the International Circuit, though could you give our audience a little bit of background about the Indian circuit first, and what was the transition like to the International Circuit? 

Initially, I started by participating in state-level tournaments. Karnataka, my home state, already had a very thriving badminton scene. My first taste of national-level competition arrived when I visited my grandma’s house in 2021 in Hyderabad for Eid and had the chance to play in an Open tournament. I entered the Under-17 category two years back, and in my very first tournament, I managed to qualify for the top 32. However, I found myself struggling with a mental block around that stage. It took time, but my breakthrough came in Guwahati, which I think was my big breakthrough because for the first time in my life, I reached quarterfinals in a national tournament and that was a really good experience for me. I got a lot of confidence boost I got and I could feel that I could beat anybody at the moment. 

Track Record of Muskaan’s impressive journey so far

So yeah, India has a lot of competition in singles and it’s actually easier to win outside than anything inside India. Yeah. So when I actually went to Japan, China and Mongolia I realized that in European/Asian countries, it’s relatively much easier to win competitions than India. So now, after playing two years of nationals we’re slowly gathering the funds to go for the international tournaments, get more points and get more exposure to confidence and experience. 

So hats off to you, as you just started playing two years back in the Nationals and within two years time, you have made it to the International Circuit as in such a short span of time, we have never seen any player move up to the International Circuit, they they kept playing in the domestic circuit for four to five years. So how was this all possible and to whom do you owe your success?

I owe all my success to my father who guided me to this stage. Badminton is even his life now. He performed an in-depth research on this and made me aware of how we have to approach internationals from a young age itself. And that’s why I started off at such an early age.

Muskaan on court in her practice sessions

Just reading about you Muskaan, as well over the internet, not much is available. So for our audience, can you tell a little bit about your parents, about your siblings and do they have any background in any kind of sports? Also how did you realize that Badminton is the thing you want to do and all this? Was there any other sport you were considering?

My parents are both software engineers. My dad used to play football, and he got ligament tears on both his knees which really affected him and he stopped playing because of that. While they were athletic, they didn’t consider pursuing sports as a career. I think they didn’t know much about taking it professionally and also due to the prevailing mindset of becoming successful engineers or doctors in our society. My mom had put me into badminton as I was a very hyper child who used to pester her a lot. Initially, it was just a hobby, but over two years, I improved significantly.

Muskaan with her family

I didn’t think early on that I would take this sport so professionally. But the trigger point I think was when I won my first U-19 state win in doubles. That was when I realized that I can actually take this as a profession. I also have a younger brother, Armaan Khan who is four years younger to me. He started playing badminton professionally at the same age as I did. And yeah, he also plays badminton and is quite a budding player.

Muskaan enjoying her victory with her brother, Armaan Khan

He’s currently playing states tournaments, and he’s slowly transitioning into nationals. He’s also on that learning journey at the moment. He is also an excellent coach for his age and we discuss lot of strategies together. During tournaments in the country, we coach each other where he sits as a coach for me and I sit as a coach for him, helping each other improve our game.

In the International Circuit, you started with mostly singles. Your singles have actually given you better returns than doubles and mixed doubles. So why do you think you are playing all the three formats or is that something you were just trying to see which one fits you well and suits you? 

I started playing all of the three formats initially. Though  I’ve always had a knack for singles as I really liked how I was the one in charge of the game and I had full control of my game. But the main reason I started playing doubles and mixed is because I believe the strokes are really important. Doubles and mixed doubles strokes are completely different from singles. So if you get even 50% of the doubles game, and if you can play rise and fast strokes, it really helps in singles. I’m very good at attacking games now. I can smash well and run through the net. So I believe playing doubles and mixed doubles has helped me immensely in enhancing my game in singles. And also because I wanted to see if I was a better doubles or singles player. Many coaches gave me different advice about picking different formats. If I have to pick, I feel that I am still a singles player and I have taken singles as my professional career. Doubles and mixed doubles are just another category that I play and feel comfortable with.

Muskaan Khan: Dominating the Court with Grace and Power

So primarily singles is what you’ll be watching for going forward? Will you be continuing with doubles and mixed doubles or making a transition to any single form?

I’ll be 18 next year and it’s actually the time now to decide on the formats. So I chose singles and just wanted to play another category to refine my skills and up my game. Previously I played with Apoorva Chaudhary for two tournaments which went well. Though right now I am trying to explore and find a more suitable partner for my tournaments with whom I can team up in my upcoming matches.

But your other partner Charan used to play with you in mixed doubles. Tell us a bit about your bonding with him?

Charan is my current mixed doubles partner. I met him at my academy. We both were singles players back then, and got together for another category of mixed doubles where we performed really well, and even went to the quarterfinals. So, we decided to continue our partnership. We gel really well and we are winning also. 

So I play mostly at the net and he plays mostly at the back, as boys have a better smashing power. I also go back sometimes but mainly I’m quick at the net. So I’ll take the net shorts and give him the opportunity to hit the shuttle and we can finish the stroke.

To be Continued…Stay tuned for the Part-2 of the conversation with Muskaan Khan in the coming weeks.

Onwards & Upwards…!!

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