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Diju and Jwala aim for the top

india Updated: Oct 06, 2008 23:41 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
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In January 2007, when the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) asked V. Diju to play with Aparna Balan instead of Jwala Gutta in the Patna Nationals, Jwala could not hide her anger and lashed out at the powers that be.

The PSPB was merely acting on the Badminton Association of India's diktat that only those players attending the national elite camp could team up and since Jwala had opted out, she had to make way for Balan.

The bitterness of wasting almost a year still rankles Jwala but the pair is now looking to resurrect the career path. On Sunday, Diju and Jwala sent out a strong message by coming the first Indian combination to win a Grand Prix title, the $50,000 Bitburger Open in Saarbruken, Germany.

What makes the achievement all the more special is that they hardly trained together before the event. "We had a couple of sessions in Hyderabad and then a day here before the tournament," Jwala said from Saarbruken.

Diju also credited the on-court chemistry for the triumph and added they were looking to break into the top-30 by the end of the year. The pair is currently ranked 80th in the world and the Saarbrucken win should catapult them to 54th when the new rankings are released on Thursday.

"We are playing four more tournaments after this — the Bulgaria Open, Dutch Open and Denmark and French Super Series — and I am confident we can achieve our goal," Diju added.

Uncertain period

The combination's future looked bleak after the BAI decision to force elite camp members to pair up among themselves. Diju and Balan played together for about 11 months but they failed to click and Diju approached BAI to allow him to play with Jwala in December last.

The reigning national champions then made a winning comeback to the international scene with the India International title in Guwahati. But even after that they played just three tournaments as Diju was looking to rebuild his men's doubles career with new partner Akshay Dewalkar.

On his part, decided to team up with Jishnu Sanyal, his partner in the junior circuit, leaving Diju in the lurch.

It was only then that Diju decided to take part in the European circuit at his own cost and teamed up with Jwala. The pair, which played a key role in helping India clinch team bronze in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, struck gold immediately.

Challenges ahead

Asked about his plans for men's doubles, Diju said he would prefer to concentrate on mixed doubles till November. "I haven't even thought about whom I will partner for the coming domestic season.

"But whoever I team up with, I will give equal importance to mixed doubles since Gopi (national coach Pullela Gopichand) has given us the go ahead to play together despite Jwala not joining the camp," he added.

Though BAI still does not extend monetary support to those opting out of the elite camp, it has allowed the players to play at their own cost and Diju and Jwala don't mind loosening their purse strings to set a new landmark in Indian badminton.

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