Happy to prove the critics wrong

“If a World Championship bronze medal does not bring about a change in attitude towards women’s doubles, I don’t know what else will,” laments Jwala Gutta in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

For Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, the women’s doubles title at the Canada Open badminton championship recently could not have come at a more appropriate time. Just when many of the critics have been wondering if the duo has lost its firepower, a major doubles title comes as a big boost to the confidence of Jwala and Ashwini.

“Yes, this is a major morale-booster, and a fitting reply to all those who have started writing us off as a competitive doubles combination,” says Jwala.

“Any win is welcome, and more so for us given the fact that every event is a do-or-die affair for us considering the number of people lined up against us for reasons best known to them,” says the 31-year-old flamboyant player.

Significantly, Jwala and Ashwini have now achieved a career-best World No. 13 ranking in women’s doubles. They are clearly looking at the Olympics in Rio next year to realise their biggest dream — to win a medal.

“We know, we have to keep doing better and show greater consistency in the run-up to the Olympics. It is not going to be easy given the circumstances we are in,” says Jwala, who, along with Ashwini, had won the women’s doubles bronze at the 2011 World Championship.

Why is it that controversy and Jwala seem to be inseparable?

“I am fearless and will speak the facts. Many may like this, but there are those who cannot digest it when I expose their misdeeds. But I am not going to compromise. I will continue to fight for a cause — not for myself,” she says.

Talking of the major hurdles she faces, Jwala says, “Honestly, I don’t understand why women’s doubles is looked down upon despite the fact that we are the best from India given our performances. If a World Championship bronze medal does not bring about a change in attitude towards women’s doubles, I don’t know what else will.

“I don’t think things will improve for us in terms of support. This is evident given the way a private academy (referring to Gopi Chand Academy) is getting all the priorities in terms of support and grants from the Union Ministry. You give them whatever you feel is good, but why should we be denied our due? After all, we are also playing for the country and mostly spending lots of money from our own pocket.

“Do remember, being World No. 13 despite (facing) all odds is no mean achievement. We are proud of it, and we will continue to challenge the best on the court,” she adds.

Proving a point... Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa celebrate after winning the women's doubles title at the Canada Open in Calgary.-PTI

Jwala goes on: “If India is producing quality singles players, it is because of the amount of support being extended (to them) by the Union Sports Ministry. That is why we beg for better treatment.

“I wonder whether any young talent in India would take to women’s doubles given the fact that we are treated shabbily. This is very discouraging to say the least. And I seriously feel that we (Ashwini and I) can well be the last real women’s doubles pair from India if this disturbing trend continues.”

Jwala now looks a lot fitter and athletic. She says that thanks to her long years of experience, she is more mature now. “There is obviously a better sense of understanding and judgement between me and Ashwini. We are a force to reckon with in the circuit,” she says.

“No doubt, there is always a lot of pressure on us to keep performing. One should understand there has never been a lack of effort from our side. Obviously, one cannot keep winning titles always. There will be ups and downs,” the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist says. “I don’t think there is any combination that is as attacking as we are. There is a wonderful chemistry between us and we hope to make it big in the next year.

“What really hurts is that we have to keep proving ourselves time and again. Why should we do this? Show me any combination from India that is anywhere close to us in terms of achievements,” asks Jwala.

Is there any hope of getting better treatment with 2016 being the Olympic year?

“I don’t think so, considering the way things are. We have to fight on our own and, more importantly, stay fit and keep producing good results. Mind you, we are not winning these titles because of someone else’s support,” Jwala says.

As part of the long-term training programme, and with an eye on the Rio Olympics, Jwala says she will be training with Ashwini in Bengaluru. The Canada Open title, she says, has given her and Ashwini the confidence to stay positive.