Commonwealth Games 2018: Ruthvika Shivani Gadde aims for a top 5 spot as she hopes to rise above injuries
Endowed with a game that relies on speed, precise placement and attack, the tall and lithe Ruthvika Shivani Gadde gives the impression of a younger PV Sindhu. And she also blossomed early, in a typical Sindhu style, to have some remarkable achievements on her resume by the age of 20.
She beat Sindhu to clinch the 2016 South Asian Games gold the very year the latter went on to win the historic silver medal at the Rio Olympics. At the Uber Cup that same year, Ruthvika, then ranked 113th, stunned the World No. 25 Nitchaon Jindapol in China to bag the bronze medal for India.
Later that year, Gadde, all of 19, truly underlined her potential in the international circuit when she returned home with her maiden Grand Prix title from the Russian Open in Vladivostok.
With a few days to go for her 21st birthday, the Pullela Gopichand protégé now has four BWF titles to her credit.
So, why is Gadde still languishing at a lowly 55th in the world rankings? Why is she still not heard of more often? Why hasn’t she yet become the third wheel in India’s highly-rated women’s singles when she has all the qualities to be the rightful successor to Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu?
That is because, time and again Ruthvika’s wings have been clipped by unfortunate injuries and illnesses right when she has started to soar. When badminton aficionados were looking forward to seeing the Khammam girl make the latter stages of the elite events, she has had to retreat from the spotlight to nurse yet another injury.
Even this year, Ruthvika earned the plaudits from the badminton fandom when she came roaring back from a 16-21, 4-7 deficit to snatch an improbable 16-21, 21-16, 21-13 win over the feisty World No. 991 Yeung Sum Yee. The result gave India a crucial 3-2 win over Hong Kong at the Badminton Asia Team Championships.
A back injury struck right after that, which deprived her of an opportunity of taking the court in India’s subsequent matches. Ruthvika was pushed back to the sidelines once again and was forced to miss three tournaments in a row.
Now completely recovered, Gadde is raring to go, but not before making it obvious that she has become way more mature through these setbacks. She might be just 20, but her wise words simply belie her age.
“Injuries are part of sports,” Gadde said in an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda.
“Injuries really make us mentally strong. They make us work much harder. I need to accept everything,” she added.
Lengthy injury battles
Gadde has been waging a war against illness and injuries for a long time. Shortly after being crowned the national champion in 2015, she was diagnosed with viral hepatitis. She was left bed-ridden for three months and found it difficult to move. With her hunger for success burning within, Gadde had no other option but to stay at home and watch in despair and frustration as others kept winning.
Right after claiming the Russian Open in 2016, she fell victim to a knee strain that robbed her of a precious few months and cost her the chance to build some momentum. She struggled on the court as her consistency went missing until she laid hands on the Tata Open trophy in early December last year.
These layoffs had been challenging, upsetting and even sowed seeds of doubts in her mind in the initial days. But now she has learnt her lesson. Having regrets won’t help her focus on her next goal, so she has programmed herself in a way so that she doesn’t dwell too much on these.
“I did have regrets initially, but then I felt like it has happened, so happened. Let’s now focus on what I have to do next,” comes the nonchalant reply.
Scheduling better is what she has been focussing on to avoid these breaks. But at the same time, Gadde knows sometimes things spiral out of control.
She did take all the precautions ahead of the Badminton Asia Team Championships in February, but her efforts proved futile as she succumbed to a back injury.
“I am planning on scheduling better. Even when I planned better, I don’t know what happened…something went wrong and my back was so strained. We actually planned well but I still could not participate after one match.”
Current focus on strength training
Perhaps her growing body is still taking time to adjust to the rigours of the fast sport. She cannot do anything about that but she is investing a lot on what could make her stronger -- rehab and strength training.
“I am much more focussed on strength and rehab programmes now. That is really important for me. Before playing on court, I am spending a lot of time on strength and rehab and exercises.
It should help us. Let’s hope that works now.”
Not attaching too much importance to CWG
Her first test since her injury break is the Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast from April 5-15. It’s the first time she will be representing India in such a high-profile multipsporting event.
Ruthvika admits that it is indeed a big honour to be able to make the cut but she doesn’t want to attach too much importance to it for doing that only increases the pressure.
“It is obviously a very big tournament for me till now. I am putting my hard yards in training for it. I was a little injured before, but now I am fine and have fully recovered. I have started training.
“I am not taking it like something really, really special. If you take it as a big challenge, it goes into the head. I want to prepare for it just like I do for any other important tournament.”
Does she draw confidence from her big comeback win at the Badminton Asia Team Championships? It would, after all, remain as the last match she played before heading for Down Under.
Honest and sagacious, she makes it clear. She cannot hold on to what she has achieved in the past as every challenge is a fresh one. The training sessions are what one draws confidence from.
“Yeah, that win really gave me good confidence. But after that, I had a long break. I can keep in mind that okay, I can play at that stage and can win a match even at that end stage.
“So, in that sense, yes, it did give me confidence but I am not taking that into CWG. This is a very different tournament. Training is what makes me confident. And like I said, building strength and fitness will also help me gain in confidence so that I can play my game.”
The Khammam girl’s tryst with her sport started at the tender age of six when she used to accompany her father to a club. That ignited her interest in badminton and a year-and-a-half later, she started attending summer camps.
After SAI Andhra Pradesh took her under their wing, she rocketed to glory, winning the Nationals in sub-junior and junior categories before joining forces with Gopichand.
The precocious talent is thus no stranger to high expectations from fans and well-wishers. That is one of the reasons why she never feels burdened when people expect her to emulate the likes of Saina and Sindhu.
“People obviously expect a lot. They obviously expect us to perform in every tournament. I am seeing those expectations since my childhood.”
Saina and Sindhu are big sources of inspiration
At the same time, she is quick to add that the two shuttle queens have been huge sources of inspiration. They have really instilled the belief into the next generation that even they can have such lofty accomplishments if they work hard.
“They are really inspiring because they are always performing very well at the top tournaments. They show us that we too can achieve it.”
So, what would she like to achieve as a shuttler?
“To reach the world’s top five,” was the instant reply. There was no hesitation as she answered that question.
Ruthvika knows her goals like the palm of her hand and no injury can derail her as she tries to get closer to them. With so much self-assurance, despite the adversities, she is indeed on the right track to realizing her dreams.