ONLY ONE pair came to mind of all Indian badminton fans, when women's doubles category was in discussion. Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa, this pair went on to clinch many titles along with featuring twice at the Olympics. The pair's highest ranking has been World No. 10 which came in August 2015.
2016 wasn't a fruitful year for them which also included a dismal run at the Rio Olympics where they lost all the matches in group stages and were thrashed out. Then began series of questions and many fingers were raised by fans and critics alike. Their partnership was in question as many wanted Jwala to end her stint with Ashwini so the latter could have a new partner.
After the Olympics, they were not seen in action and the rumours began that they have spilt and then finally in November last year, Jwala Gutta herself confirmed the news and put the rumours to rest.
Then came the question of who would be paired with Ashwini thereafter and that too was solved in no time. Few days later, came the confirmation that Ashwini will be seen with Sikki Reddy who was already taking the international circuit by storm with her performance in the mixed doubles category with Pranaav Jerry Chopra.
After a discussion between the pair, doubles coach Tan Kim Her and Gopichand, the decision was made and it was done keeping in mind Tokoyo 2020 but while beginning they wanted to concentrate on smaller tournaments.
The left-hand and right-hand combination continued as it was the same when Jwala/Ashwini played. All of these happened swiftly, as end of November, the new partners played their first tournament together, starting everything from scratch.
They began playing the International Challenge/Series, Grand Prix, Grand Prix Gold and slowly aimed at doing well at the top level tournaments like Super Series and so on. In their first tournament at Scottish Grand Prix, they failed to go beyond the second round. But that didn't let them down as they ended as runners-up at the following event they played in Welsh International.
As of now they have played at the Super Series level and therefore know the conditions and have a better understanding of playing together. Playing in Singapore SS, they defeated the same opponents who ousted them from Scottish GP. This spoke volumes as they had done two things right, one - being able to go beyond the first round while playing at a top level tournament and second - they got their act right this time playing previously played opponents and rectifying their mistakes.
That was not all, in the same tournament, they were up against the top seeds and World No.1 Ayaka/Misaki of Japan and gave the fight of their life. The Indian duo made their higher ranked and experienced opponents sweat till the end of the match. It was a three game thriller which eventually went in favour of the Japanese duo but it surely made every Indian badminton fan proud of this new born partnership.
The last tournament they played in the recent past was at Badminton Asia Championships (individual) but was defeated in the opening round.
Coming up the ranks after being formed on a short period, the pair have really done well and only promises to go up from here on. Ranked 28 currently, after just six months of action, already in top 30 says a lot about their potential.
The immediate aim for the pair would be doing well at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games while the pursuit of that aim continues and the level of confidence after playing for six months has only increased. Therefore the fans are in for a treat, though Jwala/Ashwini had their share of downs which is experienced by everyone but also tasted high level success, expect this new pair to create even more waves.
The reason for Ashwini/Sikki partnership to flourish like it's doing is because it was brewed at the right time!
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