She was out of action for 13 months because of a ligament tear she suffered during the 2010 Junior ABC Championship in Malaysia.
That was the phase when many had given up hope of her career in badminton. But the spirited 20-year-old Nelakurthi Sikki Reddy, now an MBA student in St. Ann's College in Hyderabad, has defied all odds to earn the right to represent India in what is her maiden World badminton championship in Guangzhou from August 5.
Sikki Reddy, supported by Airports Authority of India, may not create a stir, but she surely stands tall as one of the success stories having warded off adversity of the worst kind.
There are striking similarities between Sikki, a former Junior national singles champion, and her mentor and chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand.
Having himself overcome a similar challenge before going on to win the 2001 All England championship, Gopi is aware of how difficult it is to get over the hurdle, especially when one is an 18-year-old like Sikki.
Sikki will partner Aparna Balan in the women’s doubles event in the World championship. “The draw is pretty tough. But we are determined to do our best,” she said.
Interestingly, Saina Nehwal had won the 2009 Commonwealth Youth Games gold in Pune, defeating Sikki Reddy in a close final.
“It was one of the toughest matches I ever played,” Saina had said then.
Playing in World championship is a dream-come-true for me. When I was injured I never lost hope even when it meant acute hardship on many fronts. It has been a real struggle. I should thank Gopi Anna for all the moral support,” says Sikki, who had won the Senior National women's doubles title partnering Aparna Balan last year.
A few years ago, Sikki was expected to be the next in line after Saina Nehwal, but the injury changed her career-graph. “Yes, sometimes I do feel that I am missing out on singles. But I have to look ahead and not at the past,” she said.
“My strokes and drops are my strong points. There is always scope for improvement and I will continue to work hard,” remarked the indefatigable young champion who moved to Hyderabad from Warangal along with her parents to pursue her badminton career.
Some of the satisfying wins for Sikki after her injury were the women's doubles gold in the 2011 Jharkhand National Games, silver in the women’s singles.