Sikki Reddy braces up for a new journey with Ashwini

Sikki Reddy has said the decision to pair up with Ashwini Ponnappa in the women's doubles was taken keeping in mind the 2020 Olympics.

Sikki Reddy hoped she would be able to step into the big shoes of Jwala Gutta.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Shuttler Sikki Reddy has said the decision to partner Ashwini Ponnappa in women's doubles was taken keeping in mind the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She hoped she would be able to step into the big shoes of Jwala Gutta.

“One month [ago] our Malaysian doubles coach Kim Tan Her, Gopi bhaiyya (Pullela Gopichand), me and Ashwini had a discussion and we decided to pair up. Of course, 2020 Tokyo was a reason but that is too far away, four long years, and we want to just focus on the smaller events now,” Sikki told PTI.

“We are a scratch pairing so have no ranking. We have to start with smaller events and make our way up. I hope we can gather some good ranking points and then target the super series and big events. 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games will be the immediate targets for us.”

Sikki and Ashwini will play the Scottish Open (Nov 23-27), Welsh International (Nov 30-Dec 3) and Irish Open Dec 7-10) this year before combining again at the Malaysia Masters (Jan 17-22) and Syed Modi International (Jan 24-29) next year.

Ashwini said: “When I started with Jwala, I had zero exposure to international badminton but it is not the case with Sikki. She is experienced and have done well in mixed doubles. She has played Super Series events. So I think we will not take much time to gel well.

'Learning experience'

“There are few things which are quite different like Sikki and me can rotate a lot more now. If I move into the net, she can cover the back of the court and vice versa. But we need to work on our strength and weakness and it is going to be a great learning experience for the initial one year for us."

The 23-year-old Sikki, like Jwala, is a left-handed shuttler. “Beinga lefty is a big positive as I have got a lot of variations in my strokes. Of course, [Ashwini] has more experience in women’s doubles and needs to guide me and believe in me as I am the junior here,” said Sikki, who had clinched the 2016 Brazil Grand Prix with Pranaav Cherry Chopra in mixed doubles.

Ashwini and Jwala have been India’s best women’s doubles pair, winning Commonwealth Games gold and silver in 2010 and 2014 respectively, the World Championship bronze medal in 2011 at London and 2014 Asian Championship bronze.

But after qualifying for their second Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, they decided to part ways. “Me and Jwala had a discussion and we decided to go our different ways. It has been a beautiful journey for us together and I think she has been a great mentor. Whatever I learnt I learnt from her but we had separate priorities so we decided it is best if we part ways,” Ashwini said.

Jwala said: “I have been thinking about playing mixed doubles for quite sometime. I missed it. So me and Ashwini discussed about splitting just before the Rio Olympics.”

“I had a break after the Olympics and I’m working on my fitness now. I’m almost there. I think Manu Attri and I will make a good pair. Our first tournament together will be Macau Open or Malaysia and Syed Modi for sure,” she added.