Top women’s doubles badminton player Ashwini Ponnappa says India do not do well in mixed doubles as the male partners are reluctant to forgo their position near the baseline.
Speaking to HT after her mixed doubles campaign at the Syed Modi International Grand Prix came to a close, Ponnappa said, in India, the male players often want to dictate terms. “In India, a male partner always wants his female teammate to play in a fixed position, which I believe isn’t good. One should give equal opportunity to his female counterpart too, and I believe that women partners can play well from the baseline too.”
She said the experience of playing with international doubles players such as Robert Blair and Joachim Fischer Nielsen was refreshing as they were flexible about the playing position. Ponnappa, Blair, a Commonwealth Games (2006) silver medallist in mixed doubles, and Denmark’s Nielsen, who had won bronze at the London Olympics and the World Championships (2009 and 2014) in the mixed event, were teammates at Bengaluru Topguns at the recently concluded Premier Badminton League.
“The male Indian partner always asks his female partner to be at the net, which I believe is not right. Unlike the Indian mixed doubles’ players, Blair and Nielsen were flexible and encouraged (me) not to remain at the net,” said Ponnappa. “While playing alongside them, I realised that they didn’t have a fixed position for (their) female partner, and they allowed me to play according to the rivals’ game plan.”
Ponnappa, however, said Manu Attri, with whom she partnered at the Syed Modi badminton championship, was different. The duo though lost in the first round. “I chose to play with Attri as I know he covers the court well, and gives me an equal opportunity to handle the rivals on the court,” she said.
“I find the duo of Jwala and V Diju the best mixed doubles players India has produced, and I really enjoyed their game,” said Ponnappa, who had won the 2010 Commonwealth Games women’s doubles gold medal with Jwala Gutta.
Speaking about the Rio Olympic Games, to be held in August this year, Ponnappa said her hunt for a berth is on the right track. “We have a specialist doubles coach and we are very much in (Union) government’s TOPS scheme, and I believe that by the time we start our mission Olympics, we would be well prepared,” she said.
TOPS is the acronym for ‘Target Olympic Podium Scheme’, an initiative of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports under the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) to identify potential Olympic medal winners and provide them with the necessary support.
Ponnappa also opined that the country has many upcoming junior players to take over the mantle in the women’s doubles. “I don‘t agree with the view that there is no one to carry the legacy after me and Jwala. There are many good girls among juniors who could come up to the level, but they need to work hard as things aren’t easy at the international level.”
“We too started from scratch, and we put a lot of effort to achieve success at the world level and I feel that every player needs to have that kind of dedication to earn name and fame at world level,” she added.