Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy eye Commonwealth gold

Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy look to the ongoing Premier Badminton League as a huge learning curve to make one big step towards realising their first target of breaking into the elite group in women's doubles.

Indian's women's doubles badminton pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy, who will be playing for Bengaluru Blasters in the Premier Badminton League.   -  Special arrangement

Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy look to the ongoing Premier Badminton League (though they feature in the mixed doubles event only as there is no women’s doubles) as a huge learning curve to make one big step towards realising their first target of breaking into the elite group in women's doubles after finishing runner-up in the recent Welsh International Challenge and picking a bronze in the Irish Grand Prix title.

The seasoned Ashwini insists that they prefer to take it match by match as they chart their course in the big league. "In this context, PBL is a major platform with so many Olympians. Anyone can pick up a few new things which should only improve their game," says Ashwini. "Personally, I am very keen to focus on my fitness and be more consistent," she added.

"It is only a question of how quickly we understand each other better in the next few tournaments. It is bound to be a different experience for me compared to our partnership with the more experienced Jwala (with whom Ashwini split recently)," reminds the 27-year-old flamboyant Ashwini.

"I don't think there will be too many changes I have to make in combining with Sikki, who I feel is a very good player capable of producing the big results," feels the former World Championship women's doubles bronze medallist (with Jwala).

"It is only a month since we have been training together and I am glad at the way Sikki has been responding to the sessions out there especially in mastering how to rotate in simulated match situations. We have a very good doubles coach (Tan Kim Her) who is having a major influence in our preparations," reminds Ashwini.

"I always believe that everything happens for a reason. So is my split with Jwala and it is time now to look ahead. I am confident me and Sikki will be a formidable force in women's doubles," the champion shuttler says.

For her part, Sikki, fresh from Brazilian and Russian Grand Prix titles and finishing runner-up in Scottish Grand Prix partnering Pranaav Chopra in mixed doubles, is excited at playing with Ashwini.

"Unlike many seniors, she is a very sweet person always pushing me to be a better player. The best part is she tries to make you feel comfortable.

"Well, breaking into the top 15 in mixed doubles in such a short span is a huge morale-booster. These are the kind of results which can change your perception and confidence level," feels 23-year-old Sikki, who shot into limelight losing to Saina Nehwal in the 2008 Pune Commonwealth Youth Games final. Immediately, a serious knee injury forced her to focus later on only on doubles.

"I don't want to talk big but yes there was some pressure initially as I stepped into the shoes of the formidable Jwala. She is a fabulous player and like me a left-hander too (says with a smile),” says Sikki.

"One of the first target is to win a Commonwealth gold. And, given Ashwini's reputation and game, I don't think it will be difficult," says the 24-year-old Hyderabadi.

"We must acknowledge the huge support from the doubles coach and Gopi Sir. Personally, it would have been great for me if the same focus was on doubles, say, a couple of years ago. But, still, we have plenty to offer in the days to come," signs off Sikki.