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'Didn't plan for Olympics, now we're in race': Tanisha Crasto on rapid rise in women's doubles with Ashwini Ponnappa

Published at :March 31, 2024 at 8:32 PM
Modified at :April 3, 2024 at 9:19 PM
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(Courtesy : BAI)

Ankhi Dutta

Tanisha Crasto-Ashwini Ponnappa currently stands at 20th position with 51,010 points in women’s doubles category.

A former U-19 World No. 1 in mixed doubles with Ishaan Bhatnagar and expected to lead India’s charge in the division in senior circuit, the mere possibility of qualifying for Paris Olympics in women’s doubles would have been far-fetched for Tanisha Crasto in January 2023. Fast forward to a year later, Tanisha and her doubles partner Ashwini Ponnappa are the favourite women’s doubles pair from India to qualify for Paris.

Although this wasn’t in plans originally, Tanisha and Ashwini, separated by an age difference of 14 years, have formed a formidable partnership and are on cusp of a maiden Olympic qualification as a pair.

Tanisha, 20, spoke to Khel Now in an exclusive chat on her life, setbacks, the role of peers, and her women’s doubles partner Ashwini.

From setback to comeback

In January 2023, Tanisha Crasto and Ishaan Bhatnagar reached their career peak, ranking as world No. 18 in the mixed doubles discipline. However, their momentum was halted when Ishaan endured an ACL injury, causing a setback for the pair.

After a considerable hiatus, Tanisha found a new partner in Ashwini Ponnappa, who has been her biggest support in India.

“I had to start from scratch, and I didn’t keep Olympics on my mind. I was just excited about the next partnership. We played a lot of tournaments together and surprisingly we did well in the year-end tournaments and in no time, we found ourselves in the Race to Paris Olympics, so it feels great,” she said.

Currently, Ashwini-Tanisha is ranked at No. 20 and has surpassed the young Treesa-Gayatri pair to become India’s No.1 in women’s doubles. The newly made pair won Nantes International, Abu Dhabi Masters, and Guwahati Masters and finished as runners-up at the Syed Modi International and Odisha Masters in the 2023 season.

With an upset win over WR-8 Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara at the Malaysia Open 2024, they have made a significant leap in the rankings. In the race for the Paris Olympics 2024 qualification, they currently stand at the 20th position with 51010 points, making them India’s No.1 and favourites to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Honing of craft & role of Mathias Boe

In the high-speed, high-pressure world of competitive badminton, mental fortitude is just as important as physical endurance.

Tanisha Crasto, a rising star in the sport, has been focusing on this aspect of her game. She believes that maintaining a calm demeanor and exercising patience during matches can significantly enhance on-court performance.

In her words, “Fostering a sense of calm and patience during matches is crucial for improving on-court performance.” This approach has served her well in her career, and she continues to advocate for its importance in the sport

In 2023, Mathias Boe accompanied Tanisha Crasto, along with Ishaan Bhatnagar. The pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela also benefited from his guidance in the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships and in some BWF World Tour tournaments.

Tanisha Crasto sharing her experience stated, “We always knew the coach is for Satwik-Chirag, that’s their personal coach. Having him by our side is very helpful given he himself was a top-level athlete. He has a great understanding of our game. Whenever he is with us, we try to take in the inputs he provides and we try to make the best out of the situation.”

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Sparring and training setup

Speaking about the training sessions, she emphasized the importance of healthy competition and mutual dedication among players. Tanisha Crasto highlighted, “Treesa-Gayatri are there in the sessions, and we do spar with them. It’s great that we have a healthy competition. We see them in the race too, which states how both pairs are putting an equal amount of hard work.”

Acknowledging that only one of the two pairs will make it to the Paris Olympics, she felt a sense of pride and satisfaction. Expressing her sentiments, Tanisha said “I’m happy that at least one of the pair will be going to Paris. I hope whichever pair goes to Olympics, also gets a medal.”

Who after Ashwini?

As Ashwini Ponnappa, at 34, approaches the twilight of her badminton career, her younger teammate, Tanisha Crasto, contemplating her future in the post-Ashwini era, said, “It will be didi’s decision. I don’t know if she’ll play more. But if she does, I would be happy to continue with her.”

With time flying by, Tanisha Crasto, supported by the Welspun Foundation, and is poised to take on new challenges and opportunities. She is open to forging new partnerships and exploring different dynamics on the court. “After the Paris Olympics, I plan to resume playing mixed doubles. I did play a couple of tournaments with Dhruv Kapila, and we ended up winning the Odisha Masters last year. So, it’s mostly him,” she revealed.

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