Hyderabad: For Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy, there were reasons to celebrate on Friday when they came to know that they have qualified to play in the year-end World Tour Finals that will be held in Bali (Indonesia) from December 1 to 4.
Although ranked 24th in the world in women’s doubles and the non-participation of many top ranked players in the Super Series tournaments this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this Coorg-Hyderabad Jodi jumped to sixth in the World Tour rankings and in the process became the first Indian women’s doubles pair to play in this top eight contest tournament.
“We did not expect it but it is a huge one. Actually, we booked our return tickets and it was on Friday, we got to know that we will play in Bali, from December 1 to 5. It is a big bonus before the World Championship,” said the 28-year-old Sikki.
The 32-year-old Ashwini added that it is something she dreamt and wished to happen. “For the World Tour finals it is not necessarily to be world rankings or performance but it is the world tour rankings it counts. In the past we had come close but somehow missed the bus towards the end. This year I would not say we had the best of performances but we had a couple of good wins. But then qualifying, no matter how it comes, is a big thing to happen,” she said.
Talking from Bali, Sikki said: “We have now played seven tournaments in a row since September. Obviously World Tour is not easy, only top eight will qualify keeping in the performance in Super Series tournaments.”
The Hyderabad player pointed out that they have been playing really well since the last few months. “We have improved. Ashwini has the experience and she takes the leadership role very well. We have a psychologist in Paul (United Kingdom) who works on our mental strength. Ashwini has moved back to Hyderabad. We train together. We learnt to be patient on the court and we are playing more rallies now, some 30 to 40 strokes,” she said.
Ashwini revealed that they are improving. “We are working in certain areas of our game this year because we had a few ups and downs. This year we are focusing on our consistency. It is in the learning process and in the last five years, we really did not address what needed to be addressed. That is what Covid-19 has brought about to work on our game.”
Sikki did regret that they don’t have an expert doubles coach but the two Indonesians in Namrih and Dwi Kristiawan have done very well as coaches. “We are managing through our Indonesian coaches Namrih and Dwi Kristiawan. They are good for women’s doubles.”
Ashwini said that she is much better at the net now while Sikki is moving in a lot more. “We rotate quite a bit. Our positioning has also improved.” Sikki added: “I’m playing more confidently and the strokes are coming off nicely. We just need to be a little tight in big matches. That is the big challenge for us.”
With no Government support, both Ashwini and Sikki have to pay and pay from their own pockets. With Covid-19 protocols around, the rates in the hotels too have been too high.
“The Covid-19 has directly affected us financially as we are playing the tournaments on our own expenses. It is very expensive when you are travelling on your own. You don’t realise how hard it is to be when you are not part of the team. That is where the Covid-19 situation pinches you. With Covid-19 protocols and having to stay in the bubble, everything is expensive,” said Ashwini.
But this news has come like a whiff of fresh air. “There is some satisfaction that we got the opportunity to play in the World Tour. At the end, we have reached the goal of playing in this year-end tournament,” signed off Ashwini.
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