In her early years on the international compass, a coach had once taken fury at Ashwini Ponnappa’s smiling visage on court, and told her she lacked seriousness to compete. It had made the ace doubles player, with a Commonwealth Games gold and a World Championship bronze already, furious, that her naturally wonderful ways on court could be distorted as lack of commitment to winning.
Not that Ashwini changed how she went about things — Why couldn’t one smile and still hit the hardest slam in women’s badminton, she wondered. On Tuesday, Ashwini Ponnappa smiled all the way to attaining for India one of its most memorable victories at shuttle’s team championship — the Sudirman Cup.
Opening with a breathtaking mixed doubles victory alongside Satwiksairaj Rankireddy versus Indonesian mixed doubles Olympic champ Tontowi Ahmad (in a scratch pairing with junior world champ Gloria Widjaja), The Bangalore born player Ashwini bookended the famous 4-1 tie victory against Sudirman giants Indonesia, sealing a straight sets women’s doubles victory with Sikki Reddy versus Della Haris-Rosyita Eka Putri Sari.
It’s badminton’s pleasant luck that women’s singles player Tai Tzu Ying brings a refreshing, goofy persona to the court even although she works her sneaky magic on opponents with a convincing charm as she sits atop World No 1.