Jwala (left) with Ashwini Ponnappa.
7 September 1983 |
Siwan, Bihar, India
|Height||1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)|
|Coach||S. M. Arif|
|Mixed Doubles / Women's Doubles|
6 (XD) 8/5/201013 (WD) 12/22/2011
|Current ranking||18 (WD) 19 March 2015|
Jwala Gutta is a left-handed international badminton player from India. She is the country's top-notch player and has won the National Badminton Championships fourteen times till 2013. She is a doubles specialist who has been representing India on the international circuit for more than 15 years and has partnered with Shruti Kurien earlier in her career, but later found greater success with Ashwini Ponnappa and the pair has been consistently been ranked among the top 20 in the world.
Jwala, from Hyderabad, brought recognition for doubles badminton in the country, first with her mixed doubles partner Valiyaveetil Diju and now forms the high-profile partnership with Ponnappa in women's doubles.
Jwala has brought numerous medals for Indian badminton including the bronze medal BWF World Championships in 2011 and a gold and silver at 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games respectively in women's doubles which were the first for the country in the discipline. Other achievements include the historic bronze medal at the 2014 Thomas & Uber Cup team event and medals at Badminton Asia Championships and final and semi-final appearances in many big international events most notably the finals appearance at BWF Super Series Masters Finals in 2009 alongside Diju.
Jwala with her successful career and outspoken nature is one of the few recognizable female athletes of the country and has been listed several times among the top most inspiring sportswomen of India. She is the Icon player for Krrish Delhi Smashers Franchise of the Indian Badminton League.
- 1 Early life and junior titles
- 2 Playing style
- 3 Performance in women’s doubles
- 4 Performance in mixed doubles
- 5 Personal life, controversies & activism
- 6 Awards
- 7 Doubles performance timeline
- 8 Filmography
- 9 References
Early life and junior titles
Jwala was born on 7 September 1983 in Wardha, Maharashtra and brought up in Hyderabad, Telangana, India, to a Telugu Indian father and a Chinese mother. Jwala's father, Kranti Gutta, hailed from a family of freedom fighters and Leftists from present day Andhra Pradesh. Her mother, Yelan Gutta, was born in Tianjin, and is a granddaughter of a Gandhian named Tseng. Yelan first came to India in 1977 with her grandfather to visit the Sevagram ashram, where she translated Gandhi's autobiography and other works into Chinese language. She started playing badminton at the age of 6, after shifting from tennis which she had earlier taken up.
The primary title that she won was the Mini National Badminton Championship for the young ladies under 13 years old, held at Thrissur, Kerala. In the year 2000, Jwala won the Junior National Badminton Championship when she was 17 years old. That year she won both the Women’s Doubles Junior National Championship and Senior National Badminton Championship in organization with Shruti Kurien. This was an association that was there to stay for quite a while. She further won the Women’s Doubles National title for 7 more years in succession, since the year 2002 till the year 2008, in organization with Shruti Kurien.
Jwala Gutta likes playing aggressive badminton and has a great affinity for netplay, with a great level of skill at the net like good anticipation and deceptive shots. She is considered very dangerous at the net with good reading of the game and great interceptions and is substantially sharp with her strokes at the net. She also has a strong smash from the back court and some handy deceptive drops. She is vulnerable in a few areas the most evident being her movement across the court and can commit errors when forced to move. She also has had some fitness issues in her long career. She is also famous for being one of the only world-class doubles player to still use the forehand service since most other doubles specialists opt for the safer backhand serve. She stands unique in this aspect. 
Performance in women’s doubles
Early Years 2002-09
In the doubles event, her performance has been consistently good as entered the Semi Final round of her second International Doubles tournament, the India Asia Satellite tournament 2002. She also reached the Semi-final round of the Indian Asian Satellite tournament 2004, and finished runner-up at the Le Volant d'Or Tournament, known as Toulouse Open in the year 2004. Further, she reached the Final Rounds of the Scottish International tournament 2004 and 40th Portuguese Badminton Championship 2004. In the year 2006, she won the Sri Lanka International Satellite tournament; while in the year 2007, she won the Cyprus Badminton International tournament. The same year, she also won at the Pakistan International Challenge tournament and the Indian International Challenge tournament. Apart from these achievements, Jwala won the Nepal International Series tournament 2008 and Yonex Dutch Open Grand Prix 2008 in the Women’s Doubles category.
Commonwealth Gold and breakthrough
Jwala then split with her long time partner Shruti due to compatibility issues. She then paired up with young Ashwini Ponnappa from Bangalore who was called up for the national camp just before the Commonwealth Games. She and Ponnappa then went on to win the sensational gold medal in the women's doubles at the New Delhi Commonwelth Games making history of winning the first gold medal for India in the event. They beat much higher ranked Singaporean pair of Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei in the finals 21-15, 21-19 in front of the cheering home crowd and set the stadium ablaze with their win. Gutta and Ponnappa then became household names after winning the medal in front of home crowd. Since, their Gold Medal effort at the games they brought Women's Doubles into limelight in the country.
World Championships Bronze
In 2011, they came up with one of their finest performances when the pair etched their names in history books becoming the first Indian pair to ensure a medal at the World Badminton Championships. The pair defeated 12th seeds Vita Marrisa and Nadya Melati of Indonesia 17-21, 21-10, 21-17 to storm into the women's doubles semifinal before losing out to the Chinese fifth seeds in the semi-finals in London, thereby winning a bronze in the Badminton World Championship. They had previously beaten Poon Lok Yan and Tse Ying Suet of Hong Kong 19-21, 21-17, 21-19 in Round of 16. Also, in the second round they had caused a big upset by beating the 2nd seeds and former World Num 1s. Cheng Wen-hsing Chien Yu-chin of Chinese Taipei 21-18 21-18.
2012 & London Olympics
She played women's doubles as well as mixed doubles at the 2012 London Olympics becoming the first and the only Indian to qualify in two events in the entire history of the game. Jwala pairing with Ashwini Ponappa lost their opening women's double match against the Japanese duo of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa. They then went on to beat the much higher ranked Cheng Wen-hsing and Chien Yu-chin of Chinese Taipei 25-23, 16-21, 21-18 to register their first win in the group stages. Jwala and Ashwini missed out on a quarterfinal berth by a difference of just one point, even though they beat Shinta Mulia Sari and Lei Yao of Singapore 21-16 21-15 in their last group B match, after tying with Japan and Taipei on the number of wins. Prior to India's final group game on Tuesday night, the World number five Japanese pair of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa had shockingly lost to Chinese Taipei's Cheng Wen Hsing and Chien Yu Chin, ranked 10th, 19-21 11-21. India lodged a formal protest with the Games organizers to probe if the women's doubles badminton match involving Japan and Chinese Taipei was played in the right spirit, following the elimination of medal hopes Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa but no action was taken. Following the Olympic Games, Jwala went to a temporary sabbatical from the game.
Comeback and IBL
In January 2013, Jwala announced her comeback to the game and partnered Prajakta Sawant since Ponnappa was partenering Pradnya Gadre and had committed to continue her partnership with Gadre so went on play with Sawant who at that time was going through a battle against national coach Pullela Gopichand. Indian Badminton League (IBL) was announced the same year.
IBL was a franchise league commercially managed by an Indian sports rights management company, Sporty Solutionz as commercial partners. With the brand value of US$1 million, Indian Badminton League was the richest badminton league in the world. Jwala was one of the six marquee players and team captains to be auctioned. The auction itself was not short of controversy. The base price of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa was halved from USD 50,000 to USD 25,000, without the players' notice and Women's Doubles event was replaced by a second Mens Singles. This left both Jwala and Ashwini hurt and angry. Jwala was bought for USD 31,000 and captained the Delhi franchise, but the team did not reach the semis and finished fifth. Gutta and Ponnappa after IBL confirmed on that they were set to reunite. Jwala went on to add that the two decided to come together because of a couple of reasons. The first was the Indian Badminton League's organisers knocking out the women's doubles category from the tournament, which in turn resulted in the base prices of Jwala and Ashwini.
Since their comeback, Jwala-Ashwini have been making statements on court with medals at Asian Championships in April defeating 3rd seeded Thai pair of Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Duanganong Aroonkesorn 21-11, 21-18 en route, and the historic Bronze at the Uber Cup in New Delhi largely with the pair's giant-killing spree as they had to face much higher ranked opponents in most of their matches and they won each, their biggest win came when outplayed the World No. 9 team of Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari 21-18, 21-18. The win took India to the semis for the first time in Uber Cup history and assured them of a bronze medal. They later also won silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games making it their second medal at the games after the 2010 Gold.
Jwala and Ashwini kicked started 2015 with a semi-final appearance at 2015 India Open Grand Prix Gold held at Lucknow. They next appeared in the prestigious All England Open reached the 2nd round losing out to the top seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei in straight games. The pair of Gutta and Ponnappa also re-entered the Top-20 rankings after All England.
Performance in mixed doubles
In the Mixed Doubles category too, Jwala has shown her excellence as she has won titles in the Jakarta Satellite tournament and Welsh International tournament in the year 2005, Sri Lanka International Satellite tournament, Cyprus Badminton International tournament and Indian International Challenge tournament in the year 2007, and Nepal International Series tournament, Bitburger Open Grand Prix tournament and KLRC Bulgaria Open Grand Prix tournament in the year 2008. On 30 August 2009, Jwala Gutta partnering Valiyaveetil Diju became the first Indian badminton mixed doubles pair to win a Grand Prix Gold title. They defeated Indonesia’s Hendra Gunawan and Vita Marissa 24-22, 21-18 in the Chinese Taipei Open final. In the quarterfinal, the world No. 7 pair and third seed in the tournament, defeated Korean pair Shin Baek-Cheol and Yoo Hyun-Young and in the semi-final Diju and Gutta prevailed over Malaysians Liu Ying Goh and Peng Soon Chan 21-11, 17-21, 24-22. But the biggest achievement came in the same year where she and her partner Diju reached the quarters of the World Championships and became the first Indians to do so. The Championships were held at Hyderabad, India. The duo, seeded 8th, got a bye in the first round followed by a walkover in the second. In the third round they defeated 12th seed Polish pair of Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Kostiuczyk 21-11 22-20 in a 31-minute clash. In the quarterfinal they went down to defending champions and second seeds Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir of Indonesia. The Indian pair was beaten 16-21, 14-21 in 27 minutes. The same year they went on to reach the finals of the World Super Series masters final in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. They beat Robert Mateusiak and Nadieżda Kostiuczyk of Poland in straight-games 21-19 21-11. In the final the Indian pair went down to World Championship bronze medallists Christinna Pedersen and Joaquim Nielsen 21-14, 21-18. Pairing V. Diju, Jwala lost her opening match 16–21, 12–21 in just 25 minutes at the Wembley Arena in London Olympics. The pair also lost their next two matches and thus could not qualify for the knockout stage. Despite having enjoyed great success in the Mixed Doubles category, she has shifted her focus on to Women's Doubles event since her sabbatical.
Personal life, controversies & activism
During her badminton career, Jwala Gutta began dating fellow badminton player Chetan Anand, who was the 1999 Junior National Badminton Champion and 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2010 Senior National Badminton Champion and has been honored with an Arjuna Award. The couple married on 17 July 2005 and got divorced on 29 June 2011. The divorce gathered huge and unwanted media attention and speculations about an affair with tainted ex-cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin also came up, but was never confirmed due to lack of any proof of the news and constant denials from Jwala herself. Jwala confirmed filing the divorce but denied that it had anything to do with Azharuddin.
Azhar had also hinted that these stories had been planted by people in the Badminton Association of India, who wanted to tarnish his image since he tried to contest for the presidents’ elections last month. He said, “These are planted stories and motivated by people, who are against me in the Badminton Association of India. They are so upsetting.” On the professional front also, she came back with a bang, winning the gold at the Commonwealth Games along with Ashwini.
Later in 2013, Jwala said in an interview, "I learnt a lot from the marriage but we weren't growing as a couple. A part of me forgot that I too was a part of the sport. I was satisfied thinking that his victories were our victories,"
Personality & activism work
Jwala has worked for a number of social causes including women empowerment issues, anti-tobacco and anti-zoo campaigns. She has also been involved in many other campaigns including the Ice Bucket Challenge, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Jwala also launched the Indian Badminton League's (IBL) school programme 'Shuttle Express' in Pune for school children. Speaking during the briefing, Jwala said: "I am really happy to be here with the kids who are playing not only to win the Shuttle Express but to be the next badminton champion for India. Wishing everyone all the best and I know the Pune participants will make everyone proud."
|“||"Life is all about love. It's a score in badminton, but in both, one begins from scratch." is what I believe in. - Jwala in an interview with the Hindustan Times.||”|
Her outspoken nature has often attracted controversies from various groups. According to Gutta, such controversies do not bother her as she had been taught to speak up for whats right and take a stand for herself and others too. "My father (Kranti) told me at a young age to fight for what I believed in. I've never learnt to butter up people," stated Jwala in an interview with Hindustan Times. "Controversies don't bother me. I'm not the one who instigates them. But when your name gets dragged into it, you can't keep quiet," she said. She said she is targeted because she speaks her mind. S. M. Arif Jwala's coach said, "This girl, she is there with me since she was 4 years old, from that age she is there with me and one thing about her is that she is the laziest person as far as the training is concerned and as far as the court is concerned you keep her for the whole long day and she will be happy, otherwise her genes might be helping her out."
Pictures of Jwala in designer outfits are everywhere. Jwala countered by saying, "I don't understand this image thing. What's wrong in liking clothes or dressing up? In India, there is this image that if you dress shabbily, you are a serious sportsperson. If you care about dressing up, you aren't one. People are under the impression I lead an exciting life but honestly, all I do is sleep, eat and practice," says Jwala who said that she dislikes being photographed.
A controversy had erupted during the August 25 of the Indian Badminton League tie when Delhi Smashers had threatened to pull out against Banga Beats over the last-minute replacement of injured singles player, Hu Yun of Hong Kong with Denmark's Jan Ø. Jørgensen. As the icon player of Smashers, Jwala was involved in the whole matter, which was resolved after Beats finally left out Jorgensen and played Arvind Bhat, who was already part of the team. Jwala was then served a 14-day showcause notice by BAI for her conduct during the tie, which was delayed by half an hour.
In a surprise decision, the Badminton Association of India's disciplinary committee recommended a life ban on Jwala Gutta for the same. "The disciplinary committee has recommended a life ban or suspension for a certain period of time on Jwala Gutta for her role in the IBL controversy," a senior BAI official said.
Jwala's coach S. M. Arif advised her to file a defamation suit against BAI for going to press without issuing her a ban notice. The top shuttler initially did not react to recommendation of BAI’s disciplinary committee for a life ban. "This is cruellest joke on badminton and on a player of Jwala's calibre," he said adding that she committed no mistake and hence there is no question of apology. Arif said BFI had repeatedly insulted the player who brought laurels to the country.
BAI president Akhilesh Das Gupta had said that if Jwala tenders an unconditional apology, her case may be reconsidered. In fact, Jwala was clear that she will not apologise as asked by the BAI but will fight till the end, for she feels she has done nothing wrong. Interestingly, news came the Jwala's camp points at two potential reasons for the harsh stand taken by BAI. First and foremost, Jwala was vocal against women's doubles being taken off the competition in IBL. That created quite a stir before the tournament and Jwala's camp feels this is BAI's way of hitting back. Another reason being highlighted is the coming together of Jwala and Ashwini for the women's doubles. The duo had formed a successful partnership before splitting. Ashwini then partnered Pradnya Gadre from Pullela Gopichand's academy.
Blaming even chief coach Pullela Gopichand for "not supporting her" in her hour of need, Jwala said she tried to resolve the issue by talking to everyone in the administration even before the show cause notice was issued. Jwala warned her detractors in her now inimitable style. "I love to play and bring honour to my country. No one on this earth can stop me from playing. In fact, no one should stop anyone from playing. I never thought that they would stoop down to this level."
Eventually, the Delhi High Court stayed BAI’s decision to not allow Jwala to play. Justice V.K. Jain told the BAI: "You must allow her to play.". During the whole controversy Jwala received overwhelming support from fans and fellow sports-persons. Throwing their weight behind an embattled Jwala Gutta, several former players have described the Badminton Association of India disciplinary committee's recommendation of a life ban on the star doubles player as "ridiculous and harsh".
Former national coach U. Vimal Kumar says the HC order has shown Indian badminton in bad light. S.M. Arif, from whom Jwala learnt basics of the game when she was 10 years old, was even harsher. "The emphasis on her apology rather than the misconduct attributed to her shows clearly that the BAI has gone off the rails," he says.
She received support from Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily, In a strongly worded letter to Sports Minister Jitendra Singh, Petrolium Minister had said that Jwala was being treated unfairly and if it continues then Petroleum sector may be forced to reconsider it's association with BAI as various levels. He warned the Sports ministry, said be fair to Jwala Gutta or lose funding. Sports Minister Jitendra Singh responded to his senior colleague in the government, Moily's letter saying that he will examine her case and see how he can extend all the support to her. "The Ministry is always there to support the sportspersons' cause and we will do that in Jwala's case as well," Jitendra said in the letter.
The long-standing deadlock between India's ace doubles shuttler and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) ended with the national federation dropping all the charges against the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. The impasse was reported to have ended in New Delhi when Jwala met BAI president Akhilesh Das after the 78th Senior National Championships where Jwala emerged as the Champion alongside Ashwini Ponnappa in Women's Doubles.
"I am very happy with the decision BAI has taken. I will be playing as a part of the Indian team in future tournaments too. It will be an honour to represent the country as always," Jwala was quoted as saying to the Times of India.
In 2011, Gutta was awarded the Arjuna award by the Indian Government, India's second highest sporting honour for her achievements as a badminton player.
Doubles performance timeline
- "BWF content". Bwfcontent.tournamentsoftware.com. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- "Jwala Gutta is an inspiration of Indian young ladies". Neha Nair. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- Naik, Shivani (6 September 2009). "Orient Express". The Indian Express (New Delhi). Indian Express Group. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
Jwala Gutta has squared off against many players from China on the badminton court. As she celebrates the mixed doubles Grand Prix gold she won last week, she tells us about her Chinese connection
- Sharma, Sanjay (10 August 2009). "Jwala Gutta's got the spark – Gandhiji impressed". MiD DAY (Hydrabad). Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- "Jwala Gutta focusing on fitness to be battle-ready for Olympics". 28 June 2012.
- "Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa lose Olympic opener". 29 July 2012.
- "Jwala, Diju lose opening match". 28 July 2012.
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