HYDERABAD: They are one of the newest pairs in world badminton.
They have already made history by becoming the first Indian doubles duo to make it to the semifinals of the ongoing World Badminton Championship in London. Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, one of the charming pairs, are turning out to be a formidable doubles combination. They are currently ranked 21st in the world. The London show was one of the best after their Commonwealth Games goldwinning performance in New Delhi last year. Jwala- Ashwini remain India’s only hope in the premier badminton event. Jwala and Ashwini quietly stole the spotlight.
For a pair, which came together in 2009, it has been an outstanding performance. Doubles has never been India’s strength in world badminton.
It was always the singles where players like Dinesh Khanna, Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi, Pullela Gopichand and now Saina Nehwal could challenge the best in the world.
In recent times the pair of Sa nave Thomas-Rupesh Kumar and mixed doubles duo of Jwala and V Diju had a few good wins but not like what Jwala and Ashwini have done in London. Ever since she took to badminton under the tutelage of Syed Mohammad Arif, Jwala has focused on doubles.
And, she found a good partner in Shruti Kurien.
The Hyderabad duo were unbeatable in the national circuit winning as many as seven senior national titles, and went on to win the Bulgarian GP women’s doubles event abroad. However, the pair broke up in 2009 due to misunderstanding. “It was painful. But I was looking for a new partner and fortunately found Ashwini. It was one of the best decisions of my career,’’ said Jwala. In three year’s time Jwala and Ashwini have made rapid progress in international badminton. “We jell well as players. We understand each other. Our chemistry is good, both on and off the court. That is the secret of our success,’’ said the 27-year-old Jwala. Arif said the 21-year-old Ashwini found a right partner in Jwala.
The former was young and energetic while the left-handed Jwala was an experienced campaigner. “Jwala has always been dominant player at the net.
She has a forehand serve which confuses the opponents.
Apart from that she executes smashes from the back. Ashwini has improved her game tremendously. Her smashes have brought fear into the enemy’s camp.
Many times, she has created openings for Jwala, who is a deadly player at the net. The left-right combination is an added advantage,’’ said Arif.
Vimal Kumar, former chief coach, feels Ashwini has proved to be an ideal partner for Jwala.
“Jwala shows aggression on the court while Ashwini contributes quietly from the back of the court,’’ said Vimal.
Though Ashwini is 5.5-foot tall, she is the hardest hitter of the shuttle in the world. Her overhead smash touched the speed of 260 kmph at the Paris World Championship last year. Ashwini began as an athlete before taking to badminton at the age of 11 at the Prakash Padukone Academy at Bangalore.
Hailing from Kodagu in Karnataka, this Coorgi girl showed promise even in childhood. “She had the skills. She was disciplined and dedicated but did not have a strong temperament. Somehow she lacked the strong temperament of Saina (Nehwal) or Jwala,’’ said Vimal.