Contrasting auras, same hunger to win
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Contrasting auras, same hunger to win

“Isn't playing doubles with Jwala (Gutta) like being in an abusive marriage?” asked a spectator watching the player speak to her partner, Ashwini Ponnappa, during the women's doubles quarterfinal. Events today | Special

other Updated: Oct 14, 2010 23:39 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times

“Isn't playing doubles with Jwala (Gutta) like being in an abusive marriage?” asked a spectator watching the player speak to her partner, Ashwini Ponnappa, during the women's doubles quarterfinal.

Jwala (27) has an animated demeanour, always willing to play to the gallery, while Ashwini (21) prefers to be subdued and get on with her job.

For an onlooker, their communication during matches gives the impression that only one does the talking while the other takes orders.

Their methods are different and so are their personalities. But put them together on the court and they have the ability to strike fear in the hearts of the best of opposition.

Both Jwala and Ashwini are considered to be the biggest hitters in women's doubles and just over a year into their partnership, they have started complementing each other well.

That chemistry was evident on Thursday when the pair wrote their name in history books by becoming the first Indian women's doubles combination to win a Commonwealth Games gold.

Ashwini was understandably tensed playing her first major final and Jwala spent a long time talking to her partner in her peculiar animated style.

“Jwala is very aggressive and doesn’t hold back anything. But she gives me the confidence to play my game and also gives valuable tips,” Ashwini says.

“Today she was constantly telling me to forget about the earlier point and focus on the game ahead. Her constant hammering helps me since I normally brood over the lost points and make more mistakes,” adds the Bangalore girl, who not only put her singles career on hold but also her childhood friendship on line when she broke her partnership with Nitya Sosale to team up with Jwala in 2008.

Jwala had then broken her decade-old partnership with Shruti Kurien and questions were being asked whether India could find a pair soon enough to fill the void created by the separation of the eight-time national champions.

With Ashwini still a rookie and Jwala concentrating more on mixed doubles, the pair took some time to gel but have gone from strength to strength this season.

They played an important role in India’s maiden qualification for the Uber Cup finals earlier this year and have climbed to a world ranking of 20.

Chief national coach, Pullela Gopi Chand, also believes that the recipe of the pair’s success has been Jwala’s aggression and Ashwini’s untiring ability to do whatever is needed of her.

“Jwala is always anticipating and moving accordingly. That means her partner has to sometimes do the hard work of retrieving situations. Ashwini is very good at that,” he adds.

However, he also gives a lot of credit to Jwala for Ashwini’s development. “Left alone, Ashwini might not be that mentally strong. But with Jwala around, she goes for the kill.”

Ashwini, who was always considered a good doubles prospect during her junior days, agrees.

“Then, I used to be more worried about the next shot, the next point and made a lot of errors. Now, I leave that process to Jwala and just play my game,” she adds.

Jwala, on her part, raves about Ashwini’s ability to execute plans and their similar interests off-court.

“We love shopping, hanging out and movies. We gel off the court as well because of similar interests,” she adds.

Whatever the reasons, the combination has started to show their potential and one can expect a lot more from them in the future.

Events today | Special

First Published: Oct 14, 2010 12:11 IST