Pullela Gopichand’s career-saving ‘twist’ for N. Sikki Reddy

The former world no.1’s advice helped the badminton ace transition into one of the nation’s finest doubles players.

N. Sikki Reddy would probably have been trying to win in a court of law instead of on a badminton court had her sporting career ended a decade ago due to an injury.

Instead, the shuttler went on to win several medals in the sport, including a gold and a bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which remains her highlight.

It was all thanks to Pullela Gopichand, whose advice and guidance salvaged her badminton career after the injury struck the then 16-year-old badminton player during the Asian Championship in 2010.

“I was playing with Ratchanok Intanon and it was 1-1. In the third game, it was 7-7 and I twisted my knee very badly,” recalled Sikki Reddy in an Instagram Live hosted by fellow badminton player Sanjana Santosh.

“When I met the doctor, he said I couldn’t play badminton anymore. I literally started crying.”

During her toughest hour, as she suffered what was deemed at the time to be career-ending knee ligament injury, Pullela Gopichand and her family rallied alongside the former national champion and helped her stay positive.

“I am thankful to my family and Gopi sir and my friends and brother. Everyone supported me saying, ‘Sikki you can’t give up. If not, maybe we will have something else. Just go for your surgery and get it done and do the rehab. We will see how it comes,’” revealed the 26-year-old.

A career-altering change

Upon returning from the injury, however, Sikki Reddy could not rekindle the form that had seen her rise to the top in the juniors.

In addition to that, her body, too, struggled to cope with the demands of the singles competitions. 

It was during that tough phase when Pullela Gopichand gave her advice that altered the course of her career.

“I came back and started playing singles but again I had a couple of injuries so I couldn’t cope up with it properly,” said the 26-year-old. “Then Gopi sir and I sat in a cabin and he asked why I don’t play doubles. Let us see how it goes.”

Sikki Reddy started focusing on doubles and soon became accustomed to playing alongside a partner. The toll on her body was substantially lesser in doubles and her career has been thriving ever since.

Had it not been for badminton, she revealed she would have pursued law.

“Even my parents say you can become a lawyer,” she said later during the session.

After winning the Tata Open and Bahrain International alongside Pradnya Gadre in 2013, Reddy won her first medal at a continental competition, winning bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.

The peak of her career so far came in 2018, when she won bronze in the women’s doubles alongside Ashwini Ponnappa and gold in the mixed team event at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

For her stellar performances, Sikki Reddy was conferred the Arjuna Award in 2018.

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