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Satwik & Chirag's Historic Win, Rough Beginnings & Their 'Three Souls On Court'

Satwik and Chirag became the first Indian men's doubles pair to win a Super 1000 title on the BWF tour.

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Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been lighting up Indian badminton and just recently they reached a new career high, becoming the first Indian men's doubles pair to win a Super 1000 title with a massive victory at the 2023 Indonesia Open.

The dominant  21-17, 21-18 43 minute victory was even sweeter for them as it came against reigning world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, who had held an 8-0 advantage over them.

The pair has now claimed to the number three spot in the world rankings following the Indonesia victory where they also defeated the world number one pair of Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto in the semi-finals.

The Quint spoke to the young pair following the win: 

Satwik & Chirag, safe to say the Indonesia Open was one of your career's biggest wins. It was your first Super 1000 title on the BWF tour and you pulled it off win a win over the reigning world champions who you had never beaten before!

Well yeas, I think, like you said, I think more than winning the Indonesia Open, beating the current World Champions in the final was more important for us, to end that 8-0 win drought against them. We had to do it eventually and we knew we were coming closer to that. But to beat them in a final and that too of a Super 1000, I think it couldn’t have been better.

- Chirag Shetty

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Your partnership has been impressive for a few years but the last year has been the best for your partnership, and we've seen that your coach Mathias Boe seems to have played a big role in that. Could you tell us what different does he bring to the table?

I feel while we are playing, there are 2 bodies and 3 souls. Even Mathias plays with us, I always feel. When things are going wrong, we can put the burden on him and he can take that responsibility. I feel like there is someone to share or take that pressure off us during the match.

He shares his inputs at the right time. He knows what exactly to do. So we don’t feel much pressure while playing, at a crucial stage also. Whatever he says, is like 100% accurate success.

While training also, he puts a lot of efforts, there's 100% focus. So that was also helping us a lot. Earlier, we used to play 2-2 and a half hours sessions with the other coach. Now we play maximum 1 hour 15 minutes, 1 hour 10 minutes, 1 hour 30 mins but the intent is so high. We play the way we would in a tournament. That focus is on point.

Also, strategy wise, before the match we sit with him and we three talk together about what we should do, what they will do. He has notes, he writes down everything and he tells us. In the interval also, he doesn’t say much. He just tells us to focus on ourselves. He doesn’t say that the opponent is playing this way, so you have to get ready for this. He just says focus on yourself, focus on yourself. So that helps a lot.

- Satwik Rankireddy

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The big win in Indonesia came after a rough month for you both, with some early exits. In the Singapore Open, you got knocked out in the first round and you did call it your 'lowest low'. So how much more special was the campaign in Jakarta following that month?

Yes, like I said before, we couldn’t have gotten any lower than the Singapore Open. I think the way we lost in our very first round, we knew that we were much better than that. Losing in the first round with a good opponent was still okay but you feel that you have not given your 100% on the court game wise, you come out with a very dejected face.

We didn’t really feel like going out in Singapore. All we did was go to the gym and  go to the stadium to train. And that one week when we trained, I think must have pushed us a lot on the court because like I think we really needed that hunger.

Obviously, winning the title in Indonesia was not on our agenda, winning matches and looking at it one match at a time- that was our major goal and I think that’s what we did in that week after we lost in Singapore.

- Chirag Shetty

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I've asked you guys this before, but since your partnership is being celebrated so much right now, could you tell us how your team was put together?

I think it was our first coach Tan Kim Her, back in 2015, who got us both together. Both me and Satwik were playing with different partners and the Malaysian coach appointed was Tan Kim Her for the doubles department and I think initially, we were a bit skeptical when we were made partners but I think as we started knowing each other and started performing well on court, the results kept showing. When I look back, I think it was a really important decision and a really good one.

- Chirag Shetty

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You are now the most successful doubles pair India has ever had and your teamwork is just great to watch on court. But was it always this smooth sailing? Did you get along great when you were teamed up back in 2016?

Initially, when we started, it wasn’t great with me and Chirag. As I wasn’t comfortable like speaking in Hindi or English either. So there was a communication problem also. Then I always used to have Indian food, I always used to watch Telugu movies and go with Telugu people. It was very difficult.

Our coach then told us try to share a room together, go our for dinners, go out for meals, just to go out and have fun. Then we started sharing the room with each other, having conversations, going out for lunch and dinners. Then we got comfortable on court as well.

He (Chirag) understands me really well when we are playing, like how exactly I am think, how exactly I will play the stroke, where exactly I will play.

Even till now we share the room together. We know exactly like what I will think at a crucial stage, what Chirag thinks at a point in a game. So it helps, As doubles players you need that good understanding while you are playing.

- Satwik Rankireddy

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