BigDaddy News

Badminton News

Asian Games: Ashwini resets, this time with Tanisha in tow

There is an excitement in Ashwini Ponnappa’s voice that seemed to have gone missing for a while. The enthusiasm is reminiscent of her younger self when she was breaking through the ranks, on her way to becoming one of India’s finest doubles exponents a decade-and-a-half back. This time though, the energy is all about her new partnership with the 20-year-old Tanisha Crasto.

Ponnappa will look to find her best form at the Asian Games with her 20-year-old partner(Ashwini Ponnappa Instagram) PREMIUM
Ponnappa will look to find her best form at the Asian Games with her 20-year-old partner(Ashwini Ponnappa Instagram)

Ponnappa, 34, has experienced the limelight. In an age when singles shuttlers almost always got all the attention, the pairing of Jwala Gutta and Ponnappa stole it away with a record-breaking spree that very few expected.

The duo became the first Indian pair to win a Commonwealth Games gold in 2010. They are still the only Indian women’s doubles team to win a World Championship medal (a bronze in 2011). They clinched a bronze at the extremely tough Asian Championships in 2014 and also entered the top 10 in the world.

But Ponnappa’s career stalled once Jwala hung up her racquet after the 2016 Rio Olympics. She seemed lost but many reckoned that the experience of having competed against the best in the world would help her find success again. But things don’t always go to plan.

The shuttler from Bengaluru decided to partner N Sikki Reddy next but she could never replicate the success she had with Jwala. The pair reached six finals – three each on the BWF World Tour and lower tier International Challenges – in the six years they were together but failed to win a single tournament. It wasn’t easy.

Unsure of what to do next, the 34-year-old mutually ended her partnership with Sikki after the 2022 World Championships in August and took a hiatus for the rest of the year. It was a time of introspection.

“At that point, a lot of things were happening,” said Ponnappa. “I wasn’t too sure (of) what exactly I wanted. I just sat back and started thinking about career goals. I was putting in a lot of effort, in retrospect, on how far I had gone. That brought me towards starting a new partnership. In women’s doubles, I wanted to try something.”

But what was that something?

As it happened, one of India’s upcoming stars… someone many coaches spoke highly of, Crasto, after ending her partnership with Shruti Mishra, was also looking for a partner.

“It was a coincidence,” said Crasto. “One day, didi just asked me if I would like to play doubles with her. I thought it was a superb idea; to play and learn from such an experienced player. Even the coaches thought it would be a good idea to pair us up.”

Ponnappa made her name as a player who could hit a really powerful smash. Gutta would be at the net to finish points off and it made them a dangerous combination. The combination with Tanisha could allow the seasoned pro to walk down the same path again.

“We never really decided (on positions on court). I really like taking charge of the front and she is one of the hardest hitters in the world. She likes taking charge of the back, we just synced,” said Crasto.

With time, they first started playing together in January 2023, their understanding improved. “Tanisha was someone who I looked out for; she was someone who I felt would match my energy. If anything, she has got more energy. She is young, has a lot of talent and our game styles complement each other,” said Ponnappa. “Playing with a younger partner with a lot of energy, it rubs off on me. That is my biggest motivation; that I feel I have a lot of badminton left in me. I am excited about this partnership.”

At the Indonesia Masters (Super 500), in their first tournament together as a pair in January, they reached the quarter-finals. This was the moment which made them realise that this scratch combination could have a future as a permanent one.

It is never easy, especially at the elite level, to break away from a partnership and start afresh, especially at Ashwini’s age. But the duo is getting the results, first at the Denmark Masters where they reached the quarter-finals before clinching their first trophy together at the Nantes International Challenge in June.

“In Nantes, we learnt that when things didn’t go our way, we can deal with the situation. We started with a particular game style. If that didn’t work, we could change it. Those little things make a big difference which is how we ended up winning,” says Ponnappa, who tasted her first success in women’s doubles since the 2015 Canada Open.

“I am happy that I finally won a tournament. It had been a long gap since I won an international tournament. That was something that was bothering me. Even though it is a small tournament, it is still a win. It has motivated me to work really hard.”

In June, a muscle tear in her abdomen put Crasto out of action for three months. The pair’s comeback after the break was impressive — making the semi-finals of the Indonesia Masters (Super 100). The challenge was then to qualify for top level tournaments for which they needed to improve their ranking. When they started out, Tanisha and Ashwini were ranked No.161. In the span of less than nine months, the two have climbed to No.45.

The partnership also augurs well for the women’s doubles scene in India with Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly, ranked No.17 in the world, having already surprised many top pairs.

“It is important that we now have two women’s doubles (pairs) that can compete, practice and push each other,” said India’s doubles coach Mathias Boe. “That is how you create this ecosystem of competitive spirit in practice. Ashwini is quite experienced but still works really hard every day and has a lot of passion for badminton. Tanisha is a huge talent like Gayatri and Treesa. We have three extremely skilled young girls doubles players in India who have a chance of making it to the top.”

The immediate target for them is to take the Indian women’s team back to the Asian Games podium for the first time since Incheon 2014 when India claimed a bronze. Next week are the individual events where India have never stood on the podium for women’s doubles. Will Tanisha and Ashwini be changing that?

“We have been growing with each tournament. The best part is after each tournament we sit and watch our matches, discuss where we can improve and what our strengths are. The journey has only been upwards. We are improving with time and getting better,” says Tanisha, playing her first multi-disciplinary Games.

Leave feedback about this

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Service


Add Field


Add Field
Choose Image
Choose Video

Want To Earn From Skills ?

Bonus On New ID