Born in Boston. Trained in India. She appeared in Indian colours, but that all changed for Sri Vaidya Gorzada in October last year, when she decided to move to the US.
When a 19-year-old Gurzada arrived in 2022 India OpenHis name still had the Indian tricolor. Gurzada was partnered with USA’s Ishika Jaiswal, forming a rare badminton doubles combination of two players from different countries. In fact, Gurzada and Jaiswal were the only pairing of this kind across all doubles categories at the India Open in the previous edition. That year, that count dropped to zero as Gorzada officially represented the United States.
The pair had a good start to the year at the Malaysia Open – her first Super 750 tournament – where she defeated a very senior Spanish pair of Clara Azormendi and Beatriz Corrales in three games. In New Delhi, however, Gurzada and Jaiswal were drawn with the third-seeded pair of Kim Soo-yong and Kang Hye-yong of South Korea. The young duo lost 9-21, 10-21. But at this stage in his career, Gurazada is happy to compete against top-level players and gather a wealth of experience.
Talking to Hindustan Times In an exclusive chat during the India Open, Gorazada opened up about why she made the switch, the challenges of playing badminton in the United States, and her goals for this year:
How was the experience of playing in the India Open this year?
It was really good. This is the second time I am playing in the India Open, but last time I was here there were no fans. This is the first time the India Open is being played with a crowd. It’s a different feeling. Although I have played (with fans) in America, I am lucky to play in front of the home crowd.
Tell us about your switch to the United States. What made the decision?
This happened around October 2022. I made the switch because I was born in Boston, which makes me a US citizen. And we shifted to India when I was 3-4 years old. I started playing badminton in India and trained at Chetan Anand Academy. He asked me to play some tournaments in India so I started playing here. But the thing is that I cannot represent India in the Olympics. I don’t have citizenship, so I switched. This will help me in Olympic qualification.
When I played for India, I didn’t get to practice with the Indian team. During the tournament we were practicing (with the Indian players), but not that much. The thing is, even though I play for India, I rarely compete with the Indian team.
The switch, especially for the US, must be a big change for you…
When I shifted to America, it was not the same. Even though I was an independent player in India, I occasionally had players fight with us. When I shifted to America… the quality of Indian players is ridiculous. When you compare them, you realize that there is a difference between them. We try to practice in the academy in India, she (Jaiswal) comes to the academy and we train here. But then again, there is a difference between tussling with local players and national players. This is where we find a huge gap.
Have you considered applying for Indian citizenship?
“No. I wanted to go back to America at some point in my life. There’s some politics, you don’t see it on the surface, but it’s in the system. There’s politics in America, it’s basically everywhere, but Here, because there are so many people, you can see it clearly.
Badminton is not as popular in America as it is in India. How difficult was it to adopt?
I am practicing and living in India despite playing for USA. I also played some tournaments in the Pan American circuit. In America, we don’t have a team. When we travel, we find ourselves playing on individual sponsorships. They cover all our expenses. We have an association but we don’t have a team, so it’s a bit difficult for us to compete with other players because it’s just two to three of us.
So I think this is a flaw in the system. Like India, we have 10,000 players fighting. We don’t have that kind of quantity in America.
Your partner Ashika Jaiswal has been playing for the US since the beginning of her career, but you partnered with her even when you were representing India. How did you two start playing together?
I played with Junior Nationals in 2019. She also played. We played against each other and she won against me and my partner. Then, Covid happened. In 2021, he asked me if I would play tournaments with him and try to improve things. I was already playing in the tournaments she suggested and that’s how we started playing. In some tournaments where I didn’t play with him, I played with Purvesha (S Ram). He gave me advance notice for this.
You went to the second round at the Malaysia Open last week. Your doubles ranking is currently 34. What are your goals this year?
I would say the target right now is to get into the top 20. Play better, perform better, and get into the top 20. Maybe beat a few challengers in the 100s, and slowly move up to the next level. We feel there is a gap because we don’t practice together. She lives in America and I live in India. There is a difference, and obviously there is a difference in singles and doubles practice. But I am sure we will do well.
Do you plan to shift to America at some point?
Probably. I see myself doing that. Maybe not now, but in two or three years.
Did you interact with the Indian team players when you played here?
I did not have much contact with their team as I was not part of the team during all the India matches. I was an independent player. I had a chat with Nski Reddy and Ashwini Ponpa when we played in Indonesia. It was very beneficial. One senior player who helped me a lot in the exhibition is Purvesha S Ram (former World No. 30). When I played with him in Cameroon and Bangalore, I learned a lot about how I should act on the court. She keeps talking to me about how to turn a bad day into a good day. We are still in touch and she has been a support system for me.
You also play in singles. What do you find most comfortable?
I play doubles more liberally than singles but I enjoy playing them both. As long as I can play singles, I will. I would like to play in the big tournaments but my ranking won’t let me into them at the moment. I’ll be playing in the 100s and I hope to get into the 750s as well. I am planning to play challengers and 200 as well.
Who did you idolize growing up?
My idol is my coach Chetan Anand. Ever since I started badminton, I have been playing under him. He remains calm and composed on court and that is something to learn. Because it is very difficult not to express emotions in court. Normally, as a female player, I idolize Carolina (Marin). I admire her aggressiveness and determination to bounce back even on her bad days.
What’s next for you after the India Open?
“We have sent an entry to the German Open. So, if we participate in the tournament, it will be Germany and then All England.