In-form Indian youngsters Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty could not snap their losing run against the world No 1 pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo as they fell at the final hurdle at the French Open Super 750 tournament on Sunday.
It would have been the biggest win of their careers after their Super 500 triumph at the Thailand Open in early August. Nevertheless, it was a dream week for the pair ranked No 11 in the world at the moment. The French Open marked the first time the duo reached the final of a Super 750-level event.
In the final on Sunday, Satwik and Chirag didn’t have a good start as the world no 1 Indonesian pair moved to a huge 7-1 lead. The Indian duo fought their way back at 17-17. However, the Indonesians soon grabbed three game points, only one of which was saved.
In the second game, the two pairs moved together till 10-10 before the Indians netted one as Gideon and Sukamuljo went into the break with a slender one-point advantage. They then broke off at 12-12 and gathered some quick points to move to 18-13 by putting continuous pressure on the Indians. The Indonesian duo soon grabbed four match points and sealed their seventh title of the year with a 21-18, 21-16 win.
The world No 11 Indian pair had an impressive week, though, as they shocked reigning world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, before scripting stunning wins over world No 8 Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen and world No 6 Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe.
Satwik and Chirag had to miss the World Championships in between their two best showings so far in their career in Thailand and France. But the run in Paris showed that the Thailand Open triumph was not a flash in the pan.
Let’s take a look back at the best wins for the young Indian pair this season:
Defeated sixth seeds and Asian Games silver medallists:
Satwik and Chirag notched up an incredible win in the second round of the Thailand Open earlier this year. They defeated the sixth-seeded pair of Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto in straight games 21-17, 21-19.
Defeated 2014 World Champions:
In the semi-finals, the Indian duo got the better of 2014 World Champions Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol of South Korea. Satwik and Chirag won a tight first game, lost a thrilling second game but then came back brilliantly to win the match 22-20, 22-24, 21-9.
Defeated then-reigning World Champions:
In the final, the Indians defeated the Chinese pair of Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen in one of the matches of the year. Satwik and Chirag had to dig deep to get past the then-reigning world champions. Then won the first game 21-19 but lost momentum in the second to go down 18-21. In decider, though, the Indians showed nerves of steel to close it out 21-18.
Defeated the reigning World Champions:
In the second round, Satwik and Chirag bagged a massive win as they knocked-out the reigning World Champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. This was their first victory against the world No 2 pair from Indonesia. The Indians again won the first game before losing the second, but as they had shown several times in the past, they didn’t lose focus and closed out the match 21-18, 18-21, 21-13.
Defeated world No 8 and European silver medallists:
The quarter-finals saw Chirag and Satwik get past European silver medallists Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen. The Indians defeated the world No 8 Danish pair for the first time ever, registering a 21-13, 22-20 victory to reach the semi-finals.
Defeated world No 6, first win against Endo-Watanabe:
This win would have been special because it came against the pair currently coached by Tan Kim Her, the man who was responsible to pair up Satwik and Chirag despite reservations from the players and personal coaches early on. They had told Scroll.in about periods of frustration in the first few months when asked to play together but have come a way in the past 12 months.
Five top-10 wins in 2019 so far
Here’s the head-to-head for Satwik and Chirag against the current top 10 players:
World No 1 - 0-7— Satwik/Chirag's H2H record (wins-losses)
World No 2 - 1-1 (Win in French Open)
World No 3 - 1-1 (Win in Thailand Open)
World No 4 - 0-5
World No 5 - 1-2 (Win in Thailand Open)
World No 6 - 1-2 (Win in French Open)
World No 7 - 0-2
World No 8 - 1-2 (Win in French Open)
World No 9 - 0-2
The young pair has defeated at least five top 10 players, all for the first time in their careers. The list above shows clearly that there are bigger challenges still facing them. It is always difficult to beat a world-class pair for the second time, once the veterans of the game figure out a way to counter the Indians’ high-tempo style.
But the platform has been laid down and their undoubted potential is now resulting in big wins on a consistent basis. As they showed in the final against Gideon-Sukamuljo, the gap to the best in the world is certainly closing down.
“We are not so far from this [elite] level. We are at par with the best teams in the world now,” Chirag told ESPN after the win over world champions Ahsan and Setiawan.
Should they keep up this rate of improvement, fans can expect more brilliance from Satwik and Chirag on the World Tour.