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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jwala takes a sabbatical, Ashwini looks for a partner

NEW DELHI: India’s famed badminton doubles exponent Jwala Gutta has decided to go on a sabbatical, telling her partner Ashwini Ponnappa to look out for a partner.There is uncertainty over how long Jwala will be out from competitive badminton.Jwala said that it is indefinite, though she hopes to be back on court as early as in six months’ time.What has heightened the curiosity is that Jwala has asked Ashwini to quickly find a new partner and carry on playing the doubles till her return.What might put speculation at rest is that Jwala at 29 feels she is good for one more Olympics, but she doesn’t want Ashwini to be hamstrung waiting for her.”I will be back but don’t know when. I have taken time off as I want to come back fresh and fitter. I needed a break after playing continuously for 6-7 years. I have had a chat with Ashwini about it and she understands my position,” Jwala said.Ashwini, for the time being, will concentrate on mixed doubles with Tarun Kona and look out for a women’s doubles partner.Jwala-Ashwini, the bronze medallists at the last World championships, are easily India’s most successful doubles team on the circuit, and would not like to give it up. Both hope to be back together.Jwala thinks it is crucial for Ashwini to carry on in her absence even though it is going to be a tough task considering India’s bench strength.”Having said that, she has just started playing and I would tell her to find another partner to continue playing in my absence. It will be tough for her as the second string is way below our level. It is time she started mentoring a junior player who is interested in playing doubles, like the way I did with her,” she said.Ashwini is receptive to Jwala’s idea and says she would take a call after her mixed doubles commitments in China and Japan next month.The options available to Ashwini are reigning national champions Pradnya Gadre and Prajakta Sawant.”I can play with either of them but I have not given a serious thought to it. I will take the call once I am back from China and Japan,” 23-year-old Ashwini said.Talking about reunion with Jwala, Ashwini hopes the two will pair up again, though she is not looking too far ahead, not even till the 2016 Rio Olympics.”I can’t really say anything about how long we are going to be together. We would take a call after Jwala’s return. As of now, my focus is on mixed doubles with Tarun,” Ashwini said.The Jwala-Ashwini pair, ranked 23rd in the world, was unlucky at the London Olympics where they failed to make the quarters despite faring better than those who made the cut.IANS

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