Hyderabad: Seasoned Ashwini Ponnappa, who combined beautifully with the indomitable Jwala Gutta by winning the Commonwealth Games gold and World Championship bronze, is on a mission. She is making an earnest attempt, through Red Bull’s Shuttle Up, to promote women’s doubles in a big way in the country.
The 30-year-old doesn’t mince words by saying that the women’s doubles is not getting the due in the country although it is a lot better than what it was a couple of years ago.
“There is exposure, better training facilities and a lot of youngsters are taking to doubles now. There are also a couple of coaches for doubles. However, I feel the women’s doubles is not getting the due. We don’t have women’s doubles in Premier Badminton League (PBL). It is quite sad and disappointing. Something needs to be done as regards to women’s doubles. The Red Bulls Shuttle Up is a start up to encourage girls to take up doubles. It is giving them a platform to play and hopefully it will help the growth of women’s doubles in the future. I would have loved to play with the youngsters but I got injured and I can’t play. When you have this kind of tournaments, one can see the rise of women’s doubles in the country,’’ said Ashwini at the Shuttle Up tournament finals.
She said she was very fortunate to have someone like Jwala as her doubles partner. “My style and Jwala’s game worked. It clicked from the word go. I became Jwala’s partner when I was young and I was very keen on putting up a good show. She was an experienced player and had done well in the senior circuit. Jwala and I had the advantage of experience and youth. My power from the back and Jwala’s net play proved successful. It was a wonderful combination. Now a lot of girls have taken up the doubles but they need to be guided. We have to work hard to bring out successful doubles players.’’
According to Ashwini, women’s doubles in international competition has grown phenomenally. “It is lot different now. Like when I played with Jwala, I could smash from the back and Jwala used to do brilliant job at the net. Right now, most of the Japanese have a very good attack as well a strong defence. They play at an incredible speed. We need to do a lot of work in this aspect. It is not about tossing and tapping. We can get away here but not in international circuit. There is a mixture of attack and defence. Women’s doubles has one of the longest matches in the world. Fitness has gone to another level. That is the critical point in women’s doubles. We need to work in right direction and that is important.’’
She added that she and Sikki Reddy had had some good matches this year. “But unfortunately these matches were not converted into wins. We had some tough first round matches. It is sad we lost to some close matches. Our choice of tournaments could have been better in this Olympic year. Hopefully next year, we will have better planning. Most importantly, we should be injury free.’’
The doubles expert was all praise for Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. “It is one pair that has clicked beautifully. They understand each other perfectly. Satwik is a stronger player and Chirag is very good in creating openings for him. Their game style and goals are very good. The self-belief has helped them a lot. They have challenged and beaten most of the top players. We need more and more Satwiks and Chirags for the good of doubles in the country.’’