One for the future - Ruthvika Shivani Gadde
If we consider the cycle between London 2012 and Rio 2016, then there are several achievements that Indian badminton can pride itself about.
One among those is the emergence of a very talented and confident group of Women’s shuttlers, who have shown that they can match up against the best in the world.
PV Sindhu’s rise was rapid, but over the course of time, a certain level of inconsistency had creeped into her game that made slightly vulnerable against the top shuttlers. But with just under a month to go for Rio, the lanky player seems to be steadily getting back into her groove.
A few other players also developed during this phase and among those who has blossomed during the end of this cycle has been Ruthvika Shivani Gadde.
In 2014, Ruthvika first burst onto the international scene when she clinched the Women’s Singles title at the Tata Open and then in 2015, won the Bangladesh intrnational.
The 19-year-old has been hovering around the circuit, but for sure has found her big break in 2016 with two major achievements.
The first of those came in February when pitted against Sindhu in the South Asian Games Gold medal match, she showed maturity beyond her years to defeat her fellow countrywomen and win the prized medal.
Those exploits certainly didn’t go unnoticed among the selectors and the coaches and Ruthvika found herself being picked as the third Singles player, ahead of the likes of reigning national champion PC Thulasi, Tanvi Lad etc to travel to Kuala Lumpur to feature in the 2016 Thomas and Uber Cup.
The big win
After India had thrashed Australia and Germany 5-0 and lost narrowly 2-3 to Japan, they were drawn to face Thailand in the quarterfinal stage of the competition.
They didn’t begin the tie in the most auspicious of manners, as Saina Nehwal lost in straight games to Ratchanak Intanon.
Sindhu then won her match against Porntip Buranaprasetsuk and when Jwala and Ashwini pulled off an impressive win in the third tie, the pressure, was unexpectedly on the Thai to take it into a decider.
However, they would have fancied their chances of taking the rubber to the 5h match, since an inexperienced Ruthvika was up against World No.25 Nitchaon Jindapol, an opponent ranked 78 places above her.
What transpired in the course of the next 25-30 minutes, took not just the crowd by surprise but also the entire Indian badminton fraternity y surprise as a nerveless Ruthvika showed little panic and pulled off a superb straight games win, impressing even Saina seated in the stands to ensure that India, against the odds, won the tie 3-1 and , but even more crucially sealed a spot in the semifinals of the competition, confirmed themselves a second consecutive Uber Cup medal.
Although she didn’t get an opportunity to play in the semifinal against China as India lost the tie 3-0, she had showed enough to the fraternity to indicate that a new star was on the horizon, if not born already.
Ruthvika’s performance in the competition got her praise from nine-time national champion Aparna Popat, who said that her victory against Jindapol would give her a lot of confidence and wished that it would serve as a breakthrough for her.
"She played that match under huge pressure, and she managed to pull it off. But that's how a junior would want to ease into the top, play the third Singles, win a vital match for the team.It gives you a lot of confidence.
“Yes. I think that’s how a youngster gets their breakthrough and I am hoping that this could be a breakthrough match for Ruthvika, it gives her the confidence that when she plays seniors and international tournaments, she can come up with such type of performance” Popat said.
The shuttler in an interview to Sportskeeda said that it was a humbling experience for her to be a part of a team that had the likes of Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta etc and to get the country across the line in the quarterfinal is an achievement that ranks quite high for her.
"To be part of the Indian contingent that boasts of the likes of Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa, Jwala Gutta is humbling. Playing an important role in a nation’s victory has to rank really high in terms of its importance," she said.
Just like after London 2012, India found a fine batch of shuttlers, here’s hoping that after Rio 2016, we find a similar group again with Ruthvika being the torch bearer.