Hyderabad: Her long-standing demand for a specialist coach fulfilled, India's doubles badminton player Jwala Gutta says she has become physically fitter and mentally stronger heading into the Asia Championship starting in Hyderabad on Monday.
Jwala said she and her partner Ashwini Ponnappa -– currently ranked world number 13 -- needed consistent support which they have got with specialist doubles coach Malaysia's Tan Kim Her giving personal attention.
"There is a lot of difference. I think it is pretty evident. I have become fitter now. There is somebody who is keeping a track of the training. He (doubles coach) has focused a lot on me. We needed that kind of a personal attention which I have been talking about for many years now. You can see the difference," she said.
Jwala also lauded the support she has got from the Olympic Gold Quest, a not-for-profit company founded by sporting legends Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone, which has been sponsoring several Indian sportspersons.
"Ashwini and me, we are always close (to the top). It is just that we needed a consistent support which we are getting now. We have a secure support system like the coach is there. OGQ is there behind us. That kind of gives us a relief. You don't have to bother about a lot of things which were bothering us," Jwala said.
"That ecosystem has come now, which we needed for six years. I expected that would happen when we won the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Nevertheless, I am enjoying playing badminton. I am enjoying being on court which is more important. I am focused," Jwala said.
Jwala said her movement on the court has also improved considerably.
"Technically, I am not bad. What I needed to work on was mainly on fitness and my court coverage. The coach makes me move around the whole court. I am not just stuck to the front side of the court. I have to still work on my consistency.
"There has been a lot of improvement. Physically, when you are fit, mentally you are more alert and confident. I don't have to worry about my movements anymore. I am moving now automatically because I am much lighter now," she said. Jwala said the Badminton Asia Championship would help her prepare for the Olympics.
"Olympics is still pretty far. It will be a kind of preparation for us. We will know where we stand. Last two months, I was just training and working hard on myself. Now, I would know where I stand and then accordingly we work again. So, it's important tournament," she said.
The Indian women take on Singapore and Japan in the Badminton Asia championship and Jwala said she and her partners have always done well against the Japanese.
"We need to get to the quarterfinals and for that we have to beat the Singapore team for that," she said.
But it would be tough task for the team if India's star shuttler Saina Nehwal, who has already missed the South Asian Games due to fitness issues, is not available for this tournament as well.
"Japan are formidable. But, Ashwini and I have always performed well against the Japs. I am not really worried… I am talking about the whole team together. Saina is not playing. She would have been a trump card. So, the team will definitely miss her. I wish she plays for the team," she said.