Sikki Reddy: 'The focus this year will be on Commonwealth and Asian Games'

N. Sikki Reddy isn't the usual badminton girl that you would imagine. She isn't towering but at just 5'5, Sikki is an aggressive live-wire on the court. Her smashes are lethal and her placement immaculate.

Sikki Reddy (left) and Kim Sa Rang of Bengaluru Blasters celebrate a point.   -  Special Arrangement

N. Sikki Reddy isn't the usual badminton girl that you would imagine. She isn't towering but at just 5'5, Sikki is an aggressive live-wire on the court. Her smashes are lethal and her placement immaculate. Sikki, who forms an integral part of the Bengaluru Blasters line-up in the Premier Badminton League, started off as a singles player but an ACL tear combined with multiple surgeries on her knee threatened to end her badminton career.

However, Sikki, in consultation with doctors and coach Pullela Gopichand took up to doubles in an attempt to revive her career. With lesser strain on her knee, as she just had to cover a part of the court and short corners, instead of the whole court, Sikki made a strong comeback.

Ranked 28 in the world in doubles, Sikki opened up on a variety of topics in an interaction with Sportstar.

How do you rate your progress in doubles?

It has been only a couple of years since I started playing doubles professionally. We didn’t have a doubles professional coach and Tan Kim's appointment has changed everything. In just over a year, I can see a lot of difference. Now I feel, if I had started playing earlier, say when I was 17 or 18, things would have been different. But I am happy with my progress so far. I hope to do much better in a couple of years from now.

How has your partnership with Ashwini Ponappa evolved?

It all started when my coach (Gopichand) wanted me to try and talk to Ashwini. She was also looking for a younger partner and it is good that I fit the bill. Ashwini has a good attack and plays well from the backcourt. I play at the back sometimes but more on the front court. Now, we have also been playing in each other's positions too. It is this rotation that has helped us evolve and play better. If you see from the past two years, women doubles has been a lot more about consistency and patience.

Take us through on your thoughts on the upcoming season…

The focus will be Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Ashwini and I are planning to skip playing some some tournaments before the Commonwealth Games, so that we get 4-5 weeks of good training. Ashwini is also shifting to Hyderabad for a couple of months before these flagship tournaments. It would help us a lot by playing and practicing together. In the mixed doubles, I am continuing my partnership with Pranav Jerry Chopra.

You seem to have a good communication on the court with Manu Attri, especially in this season of the PBL. Why did you choose to continue with Jerry in mixed doubles?

Jerry has lot of control and is excellent in attack and has good court coverage as he is taller than Manu. Manu is stronger in drives and attacks and in defence but lacks in some movements because he hasn't played mixed doubles as much as he would love to. He had played with me a long time ago but a lot has changed since then. Both are good players and have their own unique game but I feel Jerry's game suits and compliments mine better and hence the decision.

How has PBL helped you in improving your game?

The experience has been good, especially under the guidance of Mathias Boe and Viktor Axelsen and their strategists. The top players think a lot more than we actually do and that has been an eye opener. They explain their thought process patiently. Boe has helped me a lot during practice. He has taught me a lot of intense workouts has made some course corrections in my game, like the positioning of footwork, how I hold the racquet, the angles. What makes it easy is because both of us are left-handed players. I can see some visible improvements in my game. It is good have such leagues under the guidance of these top players. It would help the doubles players immensely. If the league makes it mandatory to have one Indian and one foreigner in doubles, it can be excellent.

What is your take on the rule changes, like the minimum number of tournaments that a player has to play?

I feel, it is good and it is for the betterment. The rule change is only for the top-10 players, who should play 12 tournaments but we are ranked 15 or 16, so it is not a problem for us. For some players it might be tough. It must be tough to maintain fitness and play this number of tournaments. But for doubles, I think it is good, especially for the Indians. Being fit and playing tournaments helps us improve. We don’t have many women pairs in India. Ashwini and I get to play with boys - we don’t get to play with girls. Whereas in China, Korea or Japan, they have five or six pairs in women’s doubles in top ten in the world. It is good for us if we play tournaments against these top players because we get to know where we are lacking.