Claiming a medal at next year’s Commonwealth Games remains one of the targets for top doubles star Ashwini Ponnappa, who led India to the Sudirman Cup knockout stage last week.
At Gold Coast in Australia, which will also host the Commonwealth Games next year, Ashwini spearheaded the Indian challenge as she played both the mixed doubles with young Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and women’s doubles with N Sikki Reddy and their performances were the highlights of the event.
“We are looking forward to the next tournament, doing better than what we have done. If we can reach a final of super series this year, that will be good and definitely winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games will be one of the important targets,” Ashwini told PTI.
Talking about the Sudirman Cup, Ashwini said: “Ever since we came to know about the draw, I was confident we were good enough to beat them. Most of the players in the opposition team had top 5 players and when I knew I will have to play two matches, I had the belief that we could do well.
“Me and Satwik were training together just a few weeks ahead of the event as we had sent our entry for the Australian Open. So when we got a chance to play at the Sudirman Cup, we were excited as it was our first tournament together.”
Ashwini along with Jwala Gutta formed a formidable pair, winning medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014 and a bronze at the 2011 World Championship. They also qualified for the Olympics in 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio Games. While Jwala is now contemplating retirement, Ashwini has emerged as the top doubles star as she and her new women’s doubles partner Sikki finished runners-up at Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold. Ashwini also finished second in Lucknow with B Sumeeth Reddy.
“Coaches have been the ones who have been deciding my partners after the Olympics and it is about trusting them. Me and Sumeeth had a good partnership. We are both similar players, we have played women’s doubles and men’s doubles respectively and now we are venturing into mixed doubles,” Ashwini said.
“Satwik is a strong kid and he has been playing mixed doubles since his junior days. Playing with him is different, it is a different role all together and it is fun. “So I am looking forward to the new partnership.
Interestingly, I will be playing with Sumeeth at Indonesia and Satwik at Australia, so let’s see how it goes. After playing at the Sudirman Cup, I feel we can achieve much better results together,” she added.
The 27-year-old from Bengaluru said she is enjoying her new role as a senior player of the team.
“I am taking more charge of situations now, whether it is filling my partners in, to be supportive, guiding them, I am always listening. I have more experience than them so, I am enjoying my new role,” she said.
Ashwini said her game has evolved post-Rio Olympics.
“Playing mixed doubles has affected my game a lot. When I played with Jwala, I used to always play at the back. I never ventured into the nets. “We had set formation. But now my partner Sikki is also comfortable at the back and net. Playing mixed doubles have given confidence, it has improved my net game. It is nice and it has helped our game,” she said.
“I think my game has evolved a lot, I feel a difference in my game. The different approach has really helped. Also Sikki is a good mixed doubles player, so it gels well for us.”