Shivani means business


Sixteen-year-old Gadde Ruthvika Shivani is working hard with the singular motto of reaching the pinnacle of international women’s badminton and helping her is former all-England champion Pullela Gopichand. J. R. Shridharan has the details.

Her boyish appearance is as deceptive as her strokes. She settled for the crew cut, for she believed a plait would disturb her during play. This nonchalant girl is working hard with the singular motto of reaching the pinnacle of international women’s badminton and helping her is former all-England champion Pullela Gopichand.

Sixteen-year-old Gadde Ruthvika Shivani — after fellow-teenager P. V. Sindhu had graduated to the seniors — is leading a talented bunch of junior shuttlers in a quest for glory.

This current under-17 and -19 singles champion made enthusiasts sit up with a noteworthy foray into the senior ranks this year by taking part (and winning a medal) in four events — Tata Open (Mumbai), Syed Modi Grand Prix (Lucknow), Smt. Vankina Anjani Devi Memorial all-India senior ranking (Hyderabad) and the ONGC all-India senior ranking tournament in Bangalore. Shivani, partnering Gadre Pradnya (AAI), also won the women’s doubles honours in the Hyderabad event.

She acquired an array of strokes and abundant finesse after shifting to the Hyderabad-based Gopichand Academy, six months ago. “Shivani joined the Academy when the Indian team was performing in the 2012 London Olympics. The Academy was abuzz with hope and anticipation and that really spurred her up,” says her mother Prameela Rani.

Shivani, training under the vigilant eyes of Gopichand, is concentrating only on singles to avoid early burnout. “She used to play all formats — singles, doubles and mixed doubles — thus taking a heavy burden on herself. As she is ageing, she should shed the workload to stay fit for a longer duration. Gopi is doing the right thing by focusing on singles,” felt Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh coach Sudhakar Reddy, who had been Shivani’s coach in Khammam, a district abutting Vijayawada.

Shivani has a mature approach on court.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Shivani was a regular at the Sequel Resorts in Khammam in 2003. “She was weak and lean when she joined me at the age of seven. But gradually she picked up deception and she is too good at cross-court drops on both sides and deft half-smashes,” says Reddy.

Her steady growth in badminton could be attributed to her penchant for playing doubles with boys who were more powerful and fleet-footed. “At Khammam, she always used to wind up her practice session with an intensively-fought doubles match with boys. That is how she mastered the mixing up of strokes,” Reddy explained.

This five-foot-seven-inch girl bagged her first gold abroad when she defeated the second-seed in the under-19 final at Ramenskoye near Moscow. “She has won around 120 medals including 80 in various nationals in different age groups,” recollected Bhavani Prasad, her father.

Interestingly, Shivani, a Class XI student from Jubilee Hills Public School, idolises, not an Indian shuttler but a Chinese — Wang Shi Xian. “I like her style and strokes. She moves confidently on court and plays to her potential. Among Indians, I adore Saina Nehwal,” says the teenager, who gets Rs. 10,000 as stipend from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.

Shivani has donned the Indian colours, representing the junior teams in Japan (thrice), Russia, Singapore, Indonesia, Germany, the Netherlands, and China. “What is appealing in her is her on-court behaviour. She plays the game in a matter-of-fact manner, decimating the rival systematically, without much ado. She values the importance of silence and that is her real strength. She is the Miss Cool of the Indian Badminton,” says the Badminton Association of India, Secretary (Events) K.Ch. Punnaiah Chowdary.