Thailand Open 2019: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty down world champions to create history
In an extraordinary final at the indoor badminton stadium in Huamark, the Indian pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty beat reigning world champions Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen 21-19, 18-21, 21-18 to become the first-ever men's doubles pair from the country to win a Super 500 title.
Coming into the match as huge underdogs, not many expected Rankireddy and Shetty to pull off an upset of such magnitude. Their run to the finals had not been particularly spectacular. They needed three games to see off their opponents in all but one round and this did not inspire much confidence in the Indian faithful.
However, they proved everyone wrong in style. They marched onto the court with immense confidence and a deadly strategy to unsettle the Chinese pair.
With steep half smashes to set up the lightning-fast attacks of Rankireddy, it looked like the Indians were well on their way to making history. Although Shetty looked a bit nervous at first, he did not take long to adjust to the pace of the game. Once he did, though, there was no stopping him.
It wasn't only his anticipation that caught the eye, but also his impeccable placement from such close quarters that eventually made a difference in the outcome of the match.
When Rankireddy served an ace to reach game point, and the pair went on to take the first game, Indian supporters dared to believe. With perfectly placed drop shots at regular intervals, Shetty moved the Chinese pair around brilliantly to create spaces for Rankireddy to leverage his smashes.
Moreover, when Rankireddy cracked his thunderous smashes from the backcourt, Shetty was ready to finish points with clinical accuracy.
They complemented each other beautifully and went into the interval of the second game with a two-point lead. However, their game fell apart during the latter half of the set. Inconsistency crept in as both Indian shuttlers made plenty of mistakes to hand the advantage back to the Chinese pair, who wrapped up proceedings to force a decider.
With the momentum in the Chinese corner, it was hard to believe that the Indians could mount a comeback. However, the Indian pair were not ready to throw in the towel as yet. They hit the restart button after the second game and surged ahead in the third with some superb badminton!
They stepped off court with a 3-point lead at the mid-game interval. The Indians did not let go of the advantage for the rest of the match, ensuring a gap of at least two points between them and the Chinese pair throughout.
Shetty's unbelievable squat returns and Rankireddy's powerful smashes sealed the deal for India. Both players collapsed on court in sheer joy after the victory and even their coach could not contain himself, as he ran on to the court to embrace the pair.
The victory over the reigning world champions sounds a warning call to the rest of the world; the Indians are here to stay. Rankireddy is only 18 years old and Shetty is 22. They have a good decade to represent India and bring more glory to the country.
The future looks bright for this young Indian pairing.Published 04 Aug 2019, 16:41 IST