Late last year, badminton players Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta decided to end their long and successful doubles partnership. Ashwini then joined forces with Sikki Reddy, who like Jwala, is a southpaw. A final spot gained in the Syed Modi championship (held at Lucknow), in January, counts among their best performances.
“When I switch partners, I have to start from scratch. It takes time to settle in,” Ashwini said, on the sidelines of the PSPB inter-unit championship here on Tuesday.
Apart from the runner-up finish at Lucknow, the duo have had their fair share of early exits. Ashwini explained that while she is disappointed with the losses, the partnership is a work in progress. For one, there is the matter of deciphering each player’s role. When Ashwini was paired with Jwala, the former would cover the back court, while Jwala prowled the net.
The new alliance demanded a few changes to this routine. “Initially, Sikki and I tried to play the way I did with Jwala. So Sikki would go to the net, but it did not work. In the last couple of tournaments, we tried something different. Both of us went up and down, taking turns to go to the net and play at the back. This has worked well and we want to stick to it. Being successful in doubles is all about getting along, in terms of your game styles," Ashwini said.
The 27-year-old said that she has begun to embrace change, which was not the case earlier. “In the past, I was uncomfortable moving to the net, as I had a natural tendency to hang back. Also, the net area was strictly for Jwala. But now, I’m enjoying this change. It is great fun,” she said.
Ashwini is also open to playing with different partners. “If a combination works, then it is great. If not, I’m open to playing with others, which I was not in the past. The same is true for my mixed doubles career as well,” she said.
The Bengaluru shuttler is excited about competing in the upcoming Sudirman Cup - a team competition. “We have a very good chance of doing well, even though we have Denmark and Indonesia in our group. They are tough teams, but beatable,” Ashwini said.