For Ashwini Ponnappa, the biggest turning point of her career came when the Hyderabad left-hander Jwala Gutta asked her to be her doubles partner three years ago. Since then it has been a remarkable progress to the top. A gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games at New Delhi and they then became the first doubles pair from the country to win a bronze medal in the World Championship at London in 2011. Now for the 23-year-old Coorg girl, it will be a chance at the London Olympics. Excerpts:
On her pairing with Jwala Gutta
I think that pairing with Jwala was the biggest turning point of my career. Until then, I was like any other badminton player. But I got the opportunity after Jwala asked me to pair up with her. The fact that we won the Commonwealth Gold was a huge step towards our goal. The first medal will always be the best. It is a moment to be cherished. I think if you talk about the doubles in Commonwealth Games, it was tough as there was the Malaysian pair and the English pair.
On World Championship bronze medal
Jwala and myself were determined during the World Championship. That helped us to win the bronze medal. We surprised many teams on our way to the semi-finals. Getting a bronze was a huge thing. We didn’t realise that we were second from India after Prakash Padukone to win a medal in the World Championship.
On Chinese players
We have never feared playing against the Chinese. We always wanted to be the best, the fact is that I have a partner like Jwala, who is extremely competitive.
On getting scared of Gutta on court
Yes, I don’t dare to stare at her when I make mistakes on the court. She is an aggressive and intense player. That is Jwala’s nature. We jell very well. Even if I’m low, she encourages me a lot. That is how we work.
On Olympics debut
The Commonwealth Games was a big thing. Olympics is ten folds bigger than CWG. The entire nation will be following you. Our preparation is good and we are ready for the big challenge. In a way it is a victory for us as more and more younger players in the country will take to doubles in future. There is vast difference between singles and doubles. The singles gets all the attention but we have proved that doubles can also bring glory and medals to the country.
On her smash
The smash has been my favourite stroke. it’s a nice feeling when people say that my smash was good.