Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have become the first Indian doubles pair to win a Super 500 title. They beat the reigning World Champions and third seeds Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen of China in three hard-fought games 21-19, 18-21, 21-18.
The Indian pair came into the match as clear underdogs but they didn’t put a foot wrong in the early going. The Chinese pair are renowned for their flat play but the Indians never game them the chance to find some rhythm.
Satwik was brilliant in the early part of the match and Shetty raised his game later on to help the Indians to a historic win.
In the first game, the Indians jumped ahead to a 6-3 lead in the early going but by the time the mid-game break happened, the difference was down to just two points. The Chinese were looking a little shellshocked, as they weren’t expecting the unseeded Indians to put up a fight but Satwik, in particular, was up for it. Each time the Chinese lifted the shuttle, the young 18-year-old finished off the point with great power and precision.
The points remained short and the Indians kept it that way to take the first game 21-19 in 15 minutes even after the two teams were tied at 14-14 at one point. The young Indian pair kept their nerve to seal the first game.
The second game saw more of the same. The points were short and furious. Some of Satwik’s play during this phase was truly marvelous. But Li-Liu started to assert themselves a bit more in the rallies.
Still, Satwik and Chirag stuck to their guns and tactics. At 18-18 in the second game, the Indians were within three points of finishing the match but the Chinese duo came up with some clutch points to take the match into the third game. They won the second game 21-18 in 22 minutes.
The third game was going to be as much about tactics as it was going to be about nerves. The experienced Chinese duo had been in this position many times but for the Satwik (18-years-old) and Chirag (22-years-old), this was a first.
However, the Indians focussed beautifully on the job at hand. Flat rallies are said to be their weakness but even when the Chinese resorted to those tactics, the Indian pair found a way to counter and win points.
In the decider, the Indians kept their noses ahead thanks also to Chirag, who found a way to raise his game and came up with some wonderful interceptions at the net.
Satwik and Chirag finally sealed the third game and the match in 62 minutes. In the semi-finals, they had beaten the 2014 World Champions Jyun Sung Ko and Cheol Baek Shin and in the final, they beat the reigning World Champions Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen.
It has been a fairytale tournament for the duo – one in which no one gave them a chance but they found a way to not only survive but also to win it all. Indeed, for Satwik and Chirag, this is just the beginning.