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April 14 is a day Ashwini Ponnappa is unlikely to forget. Not because of the Commonwealth bronze she won for the women's doubles but because the day saw her playing a frankly astounding four matches.
At just 28, Ashwini Ponnappa forms the old guard of Indian doubles badminton.One of the ways in which the fact shines through is that three matches into her very exhausting day, she had already won a bronze for the women's doubles with Nelakurihi Sikki Reddy. The duo beat Australia's Setyana Mapasa and Gronya Sommerville ' a team which, ranked 30th in the BWF women's doubles list, was every bit the tough opponent to Sikki Reddy and Ponnappa, who rank just above at 28. The victory was commanding, a 2-0 with no opportunity of a third game. The 47-minutes' match may have been hurried, but for Ponnappa, this only meant more time to rest in what could be the busiest working day a pro badminton player has had. Before this medal match, at what was 7:20 am in India, Ponnappa played the women's doubles semi-finals, also with Sikki Reddy, losing to the Malayasian team 1-2. The match was gruelling, with a 55-stroke rally crowning an hour-and-eight-minutes long match that saw the Indians give a fitting fight before crumbling 21-4 in the last game. While her women's double's partner prepared for the bronze medal match, Ponnappa was back at the Carrara Sports Arena's court two for her mixed double's semifinal with Satwik Rankireddy. The time on the Indian clocks was only 9:50 am. The Indian pair lost to England 1-2 in an hour-long match, necessitating a mixed double's bronze medal match, later in the day. While Rankireddy could cool his heels, Ponnappa, at what was 1:40 pm in India, took the court for her bronze-winning match against Australia. No sooner had the joy of a medal sunk in than Ponnappa took to the courts with Rankireddy again. In India, the afternoon sun was still shining while Ashwini had given three all-out performances in a day that challenges the very make of an athlete. Ranki too had played three matches in the day, but Ponnappa's unfaltering fitness levels on a day when she is required to play nearly five hours of one of the fastest racket sports in the world, remain a marvel. Also read: Ashwini Ponnappa: The badminton hero India forgets to appreciate