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Satwik-Chirag Continue Their Impressive Ascent to The Summit of Badminton

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty beat the reigning world champions to win the Indonesia Open title on Sunday.

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Badminton
5 min read
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Lately, it feels like that everything Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty touch, somehow, turns into gold. To say that Indian badminton’s most exciting prospects possess the Midas touch will not be an overstatement by any means.

If their bronze medal finish at the BWF World Championships last year - a first-ever men’s doubles medal for India in the history of the tournament - was an open declaration of being the new kids on the block, their latest triumph at the Indonesia Open suggests that they are here to stay.

While Sunday's Super 1000 title win - the highest echelon on the BWF World Tour - is a magnificent achievement of its own on the surface, it’s how Satwik and Chirag went about business that truly drives home the significance of what they’ve managed to accomplish.

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A Commanding Performance

Not only are they the first Indian pair to secure a title at this level, they managed to do so in their very first attempt!

Satwik and Chirag in fact went the entire campaign having dropped just a single game, and won the title by overcoming their arch nemeses Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia in the final, having previously lost all of their eight matches against them. They achieved this by bringing their A-game in front of a raucous crowd and under the bright lights of the famed Istora Senayan in Jakarta where the pressure gets dialled up to 11 and the best of the best end up succumbing.

In the case of the Indians, however, the final was an evidence of just how far they have progressed in their tactical and strategic acumen. They were confident about their defensive game and engaged in a no-holds barred offense that Aaron and Soh had no answers for. This relentless and aggressive play ended up making the difference as they sealed victory in straight games, having thoroughly outclassed the No. 2 seeds.

The goal had been to not march to the rhythm that suited the Malaysians’ game all along, Rankireddy said after the final. “In the past, we would get caught playing a flat game against them. This time the plan was not to hold ourselves back when. We knew we had to be upfront. We knew we had to keep the rallies short.

“This time we felt we had to attack the first four shots itself. That way we wanted them to work and take the point. In the past maybe we didn’t have the defence to play that sort of game but we know we have a very strong defence right now.”

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Satwiksairaj Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty beat the reigning world champions to win the Indonesia Open title on Sunday.

India's Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, right, and Chirag Shetty celebrate after defeating Malaysia's Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik during their men's doubles final match at Indonesia Open.

(Photo: PTI)

The sight of Shetty tearing off his shirt to flex his muscles and Rankireddy breaking into a bhangra dance before throwing their racquets into the crowd to soak in the moment and celebrate the biggest achievement of their fledgling careers so far showed just how much fire burns in their bellies.

Big Win After Few Setbacks

And yet, it was only two weeks ago when their hunger was questioned. Satwik and Chirag endured an uncharacteristically rough patch in May and June when they lost in the second round of the Thailand Open to World No. 13 Bagas Maulana and Muhammad Fikri of Indonesia before being knocked out in the first round of the Singapore Open by World No. 23 Akira Koga and Taichi Sato.

This dip in form was difficult to accept given the swashbuckling dominance with which they played badminton over the last year and a half. Satwik and Chirag led the Indian team to unprecedented heights at the Thomas Cup before clinching the gold medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Just a few weeks on from their Commonwealth Games triumph, the pair won India’s first men’s doubles BWF World Championships medal by securing the bronze in Tokyo and they also sealed the World 750 title in France.

2023 was also going swimmingly well for them given that they overcame intense competition to win the Swiss Open in March and made history once again by becoming the first Indian pair to win gold at the Asian Championships. And then, they seemingly hit a roadblock.

“In the last couple of weeks, we were not hungry enough. The last two tournaments were a wake-up call for us. We were lazy and passive,” Satwik candidly admitted.

“We didn’t play well at the Sudirman Cup, the Thailand Open and the Singapore Open. That was the lowest low we could’ve gone,” Chirag chimed in.

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There were also earnest discussions of whether the pair should travel to Indonesia or whether they should take time to rest and reset ahead of a busy calendar. Fortunately though, Indonesia happened and things started falling in place once again.

In Jakarta, Sat-Chi were always in fifth gear and didn’t ease up, even though their path to the title was extremely challenging.

They were up against the World No. 14 pair in the second round and had to take on the World No. 1s and the home favourites in Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto in the quarter-finals.

In the semis, they had to come from behind against the Korean pair of Kang Min Hyuk and Seo Seung Jae before facing opponents in the final that they had never managed to defeat before.

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Big Year Ahead

Now, to see them make their climb back to the top of the mountain was also reassuring for Indian fans. There were never questions regarding their talent in the first place but any doubts that may have been creeping in regarding their consistency, work ethic and desire have all been silenced.

Still just 25 and 22, it is scary to think just how much room they have left to improve. Satwik and Chirag have been making a strong claim to suggest that are among the best in the world for a while and the Indonesia Open victory might lead to them having targets painted on their backs.

Their coach, Mathias Boe, isn’t worried about that at all. “Everyone knows that Chirag and Satwik are one of the best pairs in the world. Everyone knows no one can rule us out. They know that if we bring our ‘A’ game, we are very hard to beat. Our job is to bring our ‘A’ game every time.”

Satwik and Chirag are also used to carrying the weight of expectations and scaling heights previously thought impossible. Every incredible milestone, every ‘first’ in Indian badminton only feels like a stepping stone for them before they go ahead and top it off with something even crazier.

A career-high World No. 3 ranking awaits them after their Indonesia Open success but if they continue to go about business with the same fire as they have done in Jakarta over the last few days, Sat-Chi will not only continue to make history, but dominate the summit of world badminton like very few have before them.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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