Jwala Gutta is ready to step off the court.
One of India's most accomplished doubles badminton players, the 33-year old is bracing for a transition from player to mentor. The 2011 World Championship bronze medallist, who is likely to be brought on board as a doubles coach of the Indian side ahead of the Australian Open in June, says she's ready to end her playing career.
"I'm ready to retire," Jwala told ESPN, "I'm still waiting for an official confirmation. If it happens, yes, of course I'll quit playing because I have to be practical. I'll be happy to take up whatever role I'm asked to by the BAI president and help Indian doubles move ahead."
Jwala's most recent tournament appearance was the Malaysian Masters in January this year, where she paired up with Manu Attri in the mixed doubles and lost in the second round. Emphasising the need to give the doubles game a facelift, Jwala, who also has four Commonwealth Games, two Uber Cup and one Asia Championships medal to her name, goes on to add, "We need to bring in corporate support, more coaches, more sparring partners and also scout talent from national-level tournaments."
What could work in Jwala's favour is her understanding of both Indian players as well as foreign opponents, most of whom she's played against until recently.
In the Sudirman Cup quarterfinals on Friday, India lost 0-3 to China after the men's singles, men's doubles and mixed doubles pairs succumbed. "We played well against Denmark and Indonesia but China were just too good. It's in team championships like these that the need for depth in doubles counts," she says. Three of the five matches played in a tie are doubles, which essentially can make or break a team's fortunes.
New BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma, who took charge following the sudden demise of Akhilesh Das Gupta earlier this year, had, in a conclave held with players and coaches in March spelled out his plans to bring about wholesale changes to the state of the sport in the country - ranging from health insurance for players, setting up academies across the country and taking the game to the grassroots. Bringing in Jwala to mentor the doubles crop can also be seen as part of the new order. There's also talk of the existing constitution of the body being re-drafted and the national camp, which is currently solely conducted at the Pullela Gopichand academy in Hyderabad, being spread across other cities as well.
"I've had constructive discussions with the president on my role and can only take the next step once an official intimation comes through," Jwala adds, "Doubles has since long been living under the shadow of singles and I hope I can help change that."