India’s men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty lost to top seeds and world No 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia in the semi-finals at the China Open on Saturday.
The young Indian pair lost in straight games 21-16, 22-20 but not before they gave a very good account of themselves in the second game.
The first game saw the Indians struggling to up their game in the second half. The Indonesians, three-time defending champions at the China Open, were quick and decisive with their strokes while Satwik-Chirag made a few too many unforced errors.
The pace and interceptions made by Sukamuljo at the net meant that Indians were never quite allowed to find their zone in the second half. But given that the Indonesians held a 7-0 head-to-head advantage over the Indians coming into the match, this was expected.
The important bit was to see how the Indians would recover after losing the first game.
The second game saw the Indians competing better. Their movement was better, their defence was better and Chirag started anticipating the shuttle at the net that little bit better.
The highlight of the game was a 52-shot rally that showed us what this Indonesian pair is all about. They were on the backfoot all along but managed to turn things around towards the end and take the point.
It was a point that put into perspective the wall the Indians needed to climb but not for a moment did Satwik-Chirag back down after this. Instead, this seemed to lift them even more.
But each time the Indian pair would move ahead, the Indonesians would catch up with a quick flurry of points. Gideon-Sukamuljo were trailing 8-10 in the second when they suddenly took three points in a row to go into the mid-game break with a one-point advantage.
Once again, they were down 16-18 when they took three points in a row to make it 19-18. At vital moments, the top seeds found a way to raise their game and that is when the Indians were found wanting.
Eventually, it came down to the nerves. Gideon-Sukamuljo got the first match at 20-19 but the Indian pair equalised to make it 20-20. But the Indonesians found another gear and clinched game and the match.
Satwik-Chirag may have lost and their record against Gideon-Sukamuljo now stands at 8-0 but these matches are vital for the Indian pair. This is what playing the best feels like and this is what they need to better.
It will go down as a loss but this tournament has once again shown why no one will take Satwik-Chirag lightly anymore.