Not too long ago, injured women’s singles shuttler Ruthvika Shivani Gadde kept staring at her television set in anger as she watched fellow Indians contest in a number of major tournaments. It had been more than a year since the 20-year-old graced the court at the 82nd Senior National Championships in Nagpur last month. A niggling knee strain restricted Gadde from participating in major tournaments.
"When you are outside the court and you are not playing because of injuries, you ask yourself, 'Why only me?' Last year, these things bothered me a lot. So, I have realised that one should be happy while playing. There's no point coming out and crying. Just give your all out,” Gadde told Firstpost.
Due to the lengthy injury, the promising shuttler from Vijayawada is now languishing at a lowly 119th in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) Rankings. It is often said that injuries are a part of the game but in reality, it's more than what meets the eye, not only physically but mentally too.
Similarly, in Gadde’s case, these persistent injuries have caused problems to her mental strength. "When we are not playing, we tend to become frustrated. I was fortunate enough that Gopi (Pullela Gopichand) sir helped me a lot while I was down. He never stopped motivating me and shaped my comeback," she said.
On Sunday, Gadde swept aside past form to claim her second Tata Open International Series with a 21-12, 23-21 win over qualifier Riya Mukherjee. Despite an easy first game, Gadde was stretched at the backcourt area in the second. However, she managed to save four game points right at the end to snatch the second game from Mukherjee and win her third BWF title.
"My strokes were not up to the mark today (Sunday) so I just wanted to play a simple game. I did my best to go for the kill but ended up hitting wide. But this win is probably the one I was waiting for after being out with injuries," said Gadde after the match.
The 2014 Tata Open marked the beginning of the skinny shuttler where she defeated Arundhati Pantawane 19–21, 21–18, 21–14 to claim her first senior international title. Gadde had just started to churn good results.
In 2015, she continued her good run by putting her hands on the Bulgarian Open and the Bangladesh Open before upsetting former World No 2 and compatriot PV Sindhu in straight games for the South Asian Games gold in 2016. Gadde also reached her career-best 49 in the BWF rankings in December.
Unfortunately, it is the timing of her injuries that have forced Gadde to step back just when you think she would exceed expectations. Illness or injuries have always interfered her progress. "My badminton career so far is surrounded by stories about my injuries whenever I win something. I hope I don't jinx it this time around," she laughs.
Not to forget, just days after winning the 2015 Nationals, the then 18-year-old was diagnosed with hepatitis that kept her out for the next three months.
“Injuries are a part of every top shuttler's life now," said Amrish Shinde, one of the coaches at the Pullela Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad. "She started her rehab and played a tournament earlier this year but that did not pan out well. Now that she is back, she can cause upsets,” he added.
Gadde almost sent Sindhu packing on her comeback during the semi-finals of the 2017 Nationals but the Olympic silver medallist proved too good for the youngster. Notably, the 20-year-old was seen wearing a knee brace on her left leg throughout both the tournaments but she later revealed that it was just a 'precaution'.
There wasn’t a time where Gadde looked off-colour in the summit clash against Mukherjee. Her technical game and aggressive approach, coupled with exquisite stroke play proved a handful for the opponent, who eventually succumbed to the pressure. However, Shinde feels that there are still chinks in her armour. "There is stiffness in her forehand strokes but since it is her second tournament after a lengthy hiatus, things should be back to normal once we go back,” he explained.
The Tata Open crown should ease off some pressure for now and also could prove to be the second beginning for the lanky shuttler, who aims to play the upcoming Premier Badminton League for newcomers North Eastern Warriors. “All I need right now is to stay fit and focus on getting results. Injuries need to leave my side now,” she concluded.
Updated Date: Dec 04, 2017 16:59 PM