Shuttler Ashwini backs BWF’s 2018 schedule (Lead, correcting intro) (IANS Interview)

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New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) Indian doubles star Ashwini Ponnappa on Wednesday backed the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) decision to make it mandatory for top shuttlers to play at least 12 tournaments in a revamped schedule for 2018.

Ashwini’s comments came a week after many singles stars, including the likes of Saina Nehwal and Carolina Marin, slammed the world body’s decision.

“It is a really packed schedule but that’s how the sport is and next year in particular is more packed because of the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games,” Ashwini told IANS on the sidelines of an event where Dalmia Cement was announced as the owner of the Delhi Dashers franchise in the Premier Badminton League (PBL).

“Hence a lot of the tournaments which are held in the later part of the year have been moved to accommodate the CWG and Asian Games.

“The calendar would have been widely spread out without these two major tournaments. But having said that, the top players, especially the ones who are in the top-10 they do have a choice of choosing matches,” she added.

The BWF has made it compulsory for the world’s top 15 players in the singles events and top 10 pairs in the doubles disciplines to play a minimum of 12 tournaments or face a penalty.

Ashwini, who was part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist duo with Jwala Gutta, further said that the top players can still opt out of the optional tournaments depending on their work load.

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“The most important tournaments that they have to play would be the Premier Superseries but by and large they do have a choice of choosing matches and its also up to the players’ fitness as to how many matches they want to take on.

“It’s not like they have to play all the Superseries tournaments in the year. So I think it’s fair enough that few tournaments are made compulsory and few kept optional. Players do get to pick and choose tournaments,” she said.

Asked about the impact of the revamped schedule on the doubles players, the Bengaluru shuttler said: “Since I play doubles, its totally different. Doubles is yet to pick on and yet to get to the top like where we could be. For that it’s important for us to take on more tournaments, because playing more tournaments give you more match exposure at the top level.”

“Having more tournaments is good for us in a year where we have to play the CWG and Asian Games. It will be keep us match fit and also help in preparing for the major tournaments,” she added.

On the BWF’s proposed service rule change that is set to be tried at the prestigious All England Championships, being held during March in London, Ashwini said it will be unfair for the taller players.

According to the new rule, the whole of the shuttle shall be less than 1.15 metres from the court surface at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket.

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“A lot of the European players who are fairly tall were opposing the change because its not easy having to bend. If you are taller having to bend so low isn’t really fair.

“But for me it’s fine because I am short but for a taller person they literally have to bend a lot lower to be able to serve and it’s not fair,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the players have to be comfortable with the way they serve without having an undue advantage.”

Ashwini is content with the way Indian doubles players have progressed in the year passing by, but felt there is still a long way to go as far as doubles badminton in the country is concerned.

“(The year) 2017 has been a good year for Indian doubles players. For the first time, you have mixed doubles, women’s and men’s doubles pairs doing well but you can’t compare us with singles players,” she said.

The 28-year-old also rued the lack of exposure for doubles players in comparison to their singles counterparts in the country.

“I would stress on that a lot because if you compare then give the doubles players the same kind of exposure, the same kind of prize money as the singles players.

“When that isn’t there and being a country which doesn’t focus on doubles, having such kind of expectations, I am flattered because we do really want to do better, all of us do really work hard but then its not easy,” she said.

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“In doubles, there are two people who are involved and you need that kind of competition, that level of badminton back in India to be able to play at that level. You look at the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Indonesians, they have a minimum of five pairs who are doing really well at the international level.

“Having said that, I would say it was pretty good. Our mixed doubles pair N. Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra reached the semis of some tournaments, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy have beaten some really good players and all those are positive signs that we are going in the right direction with not just one pair doing well,” she added.

“In the past, it was only Jwala (Gutta) and I had done well and Jwala-Valiyaveetil Diju had done well, but now we have a lot new players coming up but then we have a long way to go. In doubles you need time to settle, specially in new partnerships.”

Ashwini, who tied the knot a couple of days ago, is currently focussed on doing well in the PBL, where will turn up for the Delhi Dashers in the 2018 edition.

The Delhi Dashers lost their PBL opener against Mumbai Rockets in Guwahati and will take on Bengaluru in their next outing at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Thursday.

(Tridib Baparnash can be contacted at [email protected])



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