Unlike in tennis where they are still a definite subordinate to singles show-stoppers,doubles teams in badminton enjoy their own cult of followers. China and Indonesia have had dedicated doubles programmes for years,its a staple of contemporary Korean success,and England have slipped so snugly into doubles mode that they would be scratching their heads to recall the last big name in singles.
India never pretenders to doubles reputation received some cheerful tidings this week when Jwala Gutta and V Diju rode the crest during their march at the Korean Super Series. The pairs 21-19,22-20 defeat at the hands of Thai Songphon Anugritayawon and Kunchala Voravichitchaikul on Saturday snapped the Indians fine run at Seoul,but their semi-final appearance at the richest Super Series event has opened a fresh chapter for Indian shuttlers.
Playing against the fourth seeds,the Jwala-Diju combine lost narrowly in both games,failing to counter the deep smashing of their rivals,ranked 12 in the world. We got close to 7-8 line calls wrong on wide returns which umpires didnt over-rule, Jwala said,disappointed at not making their maiden final,but still content at how the year had started for the pair. The points gained in Korea where they scored a win over the world champions should propel them into the top 20 in the next rankings,but the Hyderabadi insisted that it was the confidence gained that mattered more.
Warning to future opponents
I wouldnt really attach too much importance to rankings. I want to win,thats it. After these results,our opponents will be wary of us,and also prepared for us. But theyll start nervous, she said. Ive enjoyed competing here. The titles in Europe in October boosted our morale since wed beaten a couple of top pairs there,so we knew we were ready for Super Series competition. Here,the win against the world champions was huge,but we werent under any pressure, she added.
The duo have relied on soft strokes and Jwalas deception at the net. Most Asians play very fast. The trick was to break their rhythm and dictate the pace, she summed up the strategy.
The two are tall too,setting them on an even keel with the top pairs in the world. We need to work hard on speed though, Jwala insisted,talking of her preparation for the All England and Swiss Open in March.
Having shown glimpses of what the duo is capable of achieving this week,Jwala stresses that India will no longer be considered a no-hoper in doubles. We tend to switch to doubles when we are close to retiring. Im sure our results will change that, she said.