Badminton: Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly Discuss the Journey Ahead

“The doubles team created notable ripples this year, but with an eye on the Paris Olympics qualifications, they aim to achieve a more substantial impact in 2024.

In the hushed ambiance of the badminton court, Gayatri Gopichand exchanged a few strategic whispers with her doubles partner, Treesa Jolly, positioning herself close to the net before the upcoming rally. Meanwhile, Treesa positioned herself in the backcourt, ready to receive the serve.

The dynamic between Gayatri and Treesa, the world No 19 women’s doubles team, was a fascinating interplay of leadership during their opening round at the Syed Modi India International Super 300 event in Lucknow. Despite a subsequent loss in the quarter-final, the pair, both 20 years old, showcased the qualities that make them the No 1 Indian women’s doubles team.

While sometimes Gayatri took the lead in strategizing, and at other times it was Treesa, their communication remained a consistent strength. Their partnership is still evolving, but through effective communication, they are ensuring a synchronicity that gives them a competitive edge.

Treesa emphasized the importance of communication, stating, “I think communication is the best thing [about us]. We have good communication, we talk a lot off-court also and share almost everything. In any relationship, be it one between a husband and wife also, you need to communicate well. I think, we [ought to] follow the same thing when it comes to a doubles pair.”

Drawing parallels with India’s renowned men’s doubles pair, Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Treesa likened a successful doubles partnership to a marriage. Despite being in their first full season of BWF Tour events, Treesa is committed to adopting a philosophy that makes her partnership with Gayatri seem like it has a long history. She emphasized the strength of communication, stating, “When the communication is strong, it works out well.”

While they communicate on the court, the two athletes have contrasting personalities. Treesa, slightly younger than Gayatri by just over two months, expresses her emotions openly on the court, letting out roars and shouts in celebration after points. In contrast, Gayatri is the quieter and calmer one.

Despite these differences, their contrasting styles and personalities complement each other through their understanding and balance. Treesa highlighted how their communication on the court helps in boosting each other’s morale, especially on days when one feels a bit demoralized.

Beyond the court, their bond extends into a friendship. Gayatri emphasized, “We’re good friends. We hang out sometimes, go for lunch and dinners on the weekends.” Treesa echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of understanding each other off the court. “We need an understanding about each other. We make sure to talk off-court about what happens and how we are feeling.”

Recapping the Events of 2023

In the early phases of their professional journeys, the pair emerged as highly promising prospects in Indian badminton by achieving the remarkable feat of becoming the first doubles pair from the country to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious All England Open in 2022. Their subsequent achievement of securing another semi-final finish at this year’s Super 1000 event only solidified their standing as rising stars.

Reflecting on their accomplishments, Gayatri reminisced about the significance of the All England Open, a tournament with special meaning for her family. Her father, the national coach Pulella Gopichand, was only the second Indian to clinch the prestigious title in the men’s singles event back in 2001.

“It’s a dream tournament for all the players. Just stepping on the court there, it’s an indescribable feeling. Goosebumps were a given.

“It was a valuable experience. Competing against the best players there boosted our confidence after defeating some top pairs. I hope that momentum continues.”

In 2023, the duo once again showcased their prowess on the grand stage by defeating experienced and higher-ranked pairs at the Birmingham event. Notable victories included triumphs over China’s Li Wen Mei and Liu Xuan Xuan, Japan’s world No 5 team of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, and the seventh-seeded Thai pair Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.

“When we stepped onto the court for practice sessions in the vast stadium, it was an amazing feeling,” Treesa added.

“Playing at the All England is a dream for everyone due to its prestige. When we entered the court, there was no pressure about winning or losing. We just wanted to play joyfully. It will always be a memorable tournament for us.”

Apart from the All England Open semi-finals and the Syed Modi India International quarter-finals, the pair faced challenges in securing favorable results. However, they view the season as a valuable learning experience and an opportunity to refine their skills early in their careers.

Identifying confidence as an area for improvement, the duo acknowledges occasional nerves when facing tough opponents. Recognizing this as a key aspect to enhance, they are taking steps in the right direction.

“Following the All England semi-finals, we didn’t achieve significant results, but we take positives from the fact that we took several matches to the third game,” said Gayatri. “We played against some strong pairs, winning some and losing some. Overall, it was a great year.”

New Targets

With the Paris Olympics on the horizon, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games bronze medalists have set their sights on their goals for 2024. The upcoming tournaments in India – the Guwahati Masters and the India Open – will play a crucial role in determining their qualifying ranking for the 2024 Olympics. Consequently, their aim is to surpass their previous results.

“With the Olympics approaching, our expectation is to qualify. We need to focus step by step. Keeping our minds focused, we aim to reach our goal,” said Gayatri.

While discussions about the future of Indian badminton have traditionally centered around singles, the remarkable performance of Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in recent years has shifted the conversation to doubles. The emerging pair of Gayatri-Treesa has the potential to make a significant and enduring impact, aspiring to replicate the success seen in women’s doubles.

In pursuit of a similar impact, Gayatri expressed, “Hopefully, we achieve that. This is what we work for every day. We aspire to be the best in the world, and hopefully, we get there someday.”

Acknowledging the pressure, Treesa added, “There will always be pressure, but how we handle it will determine our progress. Ashwini Ponappa and Jwala Gutta’s women’s doubles bronze medal in the World Championship is an inspiration for us. Simultaneously, Satwik-Chirag showed that with determination, we can excel in Super 500 and 750 tournaments.”

Clear about managing expectations while navigating through the pressure to reach the pinnacle, Treesa and Gayatri are unified in their off-court goal – a shared dream of making a significant impact in women’s doubles.

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