QUEEN'S ROAD: They are a near-perfect foil to one another.
The right hand-left hand combination of Bengaluru’s Ashwini Ponnappa and Hyderabad’s Jwala Gutta has recorded many historic victories in women’s doubles badminton for the country.
As they embark on another conquest, the World Championships in Jakarta from August 10, expectations are soaring high. But the glamorous pair has its feet firmly anchored to the ground.
“We are going to take one match at a time and not think of anything else,” Ashwini told the City Express before departure.
“Jwala and I practised together for about a week in the national camp in Bengaluru under coach Yusuf Johari. But after that, we have been working at our respective centres. We are fit, ready and excited to go out and play,” she said.
“We have a first round bye and then we play the winner of the Canadian and Chinese Taipei pair. It is important to win our first match and we will focus on that,” added the genial Ashwini.
“In a championship like this, everyone plays at the same level. So you cannot take anything for granted. You need to perform your best on a given day. We hope to do well. We won the bronze in 2011 and that will motivate us. But as I said, we will take one match at a time,” said Ashwini.
On June 29 this year, Ashwini and Jwala won the Canada Open women’s doubles title defeating top seeds Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek of Netherlands. In 2014 also they enjoyed tremendous success. The two came together in 2010 and since then have been ranked in the top 20. At the moment they are seeded No 13 for the world championships.
The two have had great international success since 2010. In the Commonwealth Games that year, they won the women’s doubles gold and became the first Indian pair to do so. In 2011 they made history by becoming the first pair to win a bronze at the World championships at the Wembley Arena in London defeating Vita Marrisa and Nadya Melati of Indonesia 17-21, 21-10, 21-17. But they lost in the semi-finals.
In the 2012 London Olympics, they lost their opening game to Japan’s Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa. But they beat Wen Hsing Cheng and Yu Chin Chien of Chinese Taipei 25-23, 16-21, 21-18 in the group. They, however, missed a quarter-final berth by just one point despite a 21-16, 21-15 victory over Shinta Mulia Sari and Lei Yao of Singapore.
Jwala is adept at the net with her interceptions and placements while Ashwini roams the back courts retrieving or smashing. The successful pair has now set out on another conquest. Given their determination and class, the medal could well be of a different hue, not just bronze.