India’s doubles player Sikki Reddy said she was shedding tears of joy as she was watched her India teammates Chirag Shetty and SatwikSairaj Rankireddy emerge victorious after battling it out for 62 minutes in the final of the Thailand Open. Satwik, 18 and Chirag, 22 became the first Indian pair to win a BWF Super 500 badminton tournament.
“They have lost close matches before which is why it was so emotional to see them win today,” said Sikki Reddy. “This will give them a lot of confidence and the feeling that they belong to the big league. Standing on the podium is very important.”
The fact that the duo that trains at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad defeated the world champions and third seeds Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen in the finals was the icing on the cake. It was by no stretch of imagination easy, the scoreline of 21-19, 18-21, 21-18, a clear pointer.
“This is a Super Series level tournament. Almost all the top players were there and so it could easily have been the World championship or the Olympics. The quality of play was of a very high standard. And the fact that they beat the World champions shows the effort that has gone into winning the title,” Pullela Gopichand, national badminton coach told Filter Kaapi.
The big difference between earlier attempts to secure a podium finish and today was that the duo combined better to close the match. The fact that this victory comes in an Olympic year, makes it even more significant. This Sunday, the unseeded Indian duo would have become marked men for coaches of several rival doubles players.
But the team from Beijing was not overcome in one day. Till three years ago, Satwik and Chirag played with different partners. It was Malaysian doubles coach Tan Kim Her who forged their combination, seeing the possibility of chemistry on court.
Which is why those at the Hyderabad academy say Tan Kim Her deserves a lot of the credit for the victory today. Under his tutelage, Satwik and Chirag won the silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Kim Her quit his position with the Indian team in February this year, to join the Japanese squad. The Indian doubles team, both men and women, is now coached by three Indonesian coaches led by Flandy Limpele, Olympic and world championship medallist.
Success in Indian badminton over the last decade has been associated with singles players with PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth spearheading the challenge. The coming of age of the doubles players is a huge step forward and will make them a more well-rounded unit in team championships.
“Both are very young. They have three big weapons – net play, smash and speed. I would say they are a contender for being among the top five doubles combinations in the world,” gushes Gopichand.
Incidentally, the title win comes exactly seven years to the day Saina Nehwal won the first medal for India at the Olympics, with her bronze in London in 2012.
(T S Sudhir is the author of Saina Nehwal’s biography titled `Saina Nehwal : An Inspirational Biography’ in 2012)