New Delhi: Jwala Gutta, who with Valiyaveetil Diju forms India’s potent mixed doubles pair in the Badminton Asia Championships beginning here Monday, feels their performance in international tournaments last year have forced their opponents to take them seriously.
Jwala and Diju created history when they won the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix in August, becoming the first Indian mixed doubles pair to win a Grand Prix Gold title.
In the same month, they became the first Indian pair to make the quarterfinals of World Championships in Hyderabad. The duo had another first reaching the World Super Series Masters final in Johor Bahru, Malaysia in December.
The good showing then catapulted them to top-10 in the world rankings.
They have got the top billing for the tournament along with Saina Nehwal, who is top seeded in the women’s singles.
“Yes, the last year was phenomenal for us. The Chinese Taipei title gave us the self-belief to perform at the top level and we followed it up with some good results. The opponents are now scared of us,” Jwala told reporters.
The start of the year was not ideal for Jwala and Diju with the former battling injury. Even Diju confessed having a back problem last month.
The two now are geared up for the tournament, a testing event for the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games, and want to go all out for the title.
“I have been working very hard especially for this tournament. I have worked on my fitness and I am feeling good ahead of the tournament,” Gutta said.
“I did not play in the Swiss Open and when I went for the All England Open, I was not fully fit. But I had to play as I missed the Korean and Malaysian Open due to injury.
“I still won’t say that I am 100 percent fit. But I feel much fitter and quicker today and Diju and I are coordinating well,” she said.
Diju concurs. “Jwala and I are combining well. I suffered back pain last month but I have almost recovered now. We have now consciously decided not to go for the rallies and to finish the points quicker.”
The top billing does not bring any pressure, with both looking at taking a match at a time.
“It is good that India have got the top billing in two draws but I always see my draw only for the first match. I prefer to take a match at a time,” Jwala said.
Diju, however, feels it should be a smooth sailing till the quarter-finals.
“I have seen the draw and till the quarter-finals we should not be having any problem. After that, we face some serious competition,” he said.
Their rankings have taken a dip but Jwala is not too worried. “Rankings do not matter. But, of course, they are a reflection of your good work.”
The two are aware that they are India’s best hope in the Commonwealth Games and hope to win nothing less than a gold, with Chinese absence being an additional boost.
“I will like to win gold in three categories -- doubles, team and mixed doubles -- in the Commoweath Games. It would be easier if the Chinese are not here. But deep down we know that we have always struggled to beat Chinese. But it is not satisfying to win a gold not beating a Chinese,” Jwala said.
Diju feels his left-right pairing with Jwala give them an edge over others.
“Mixed doubles is more difficult that doubles. The guys have to cover the backcourt all the time. With Jwala being a lefty, it gives us an edge over right-handed combinations but we still need to work against a similiar left-right combine,” he said.