Satwik-Chirag pair goes down fighting in epic encounter - Hindustan Times
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Satwik-Chirag pair goes down fighting in epic encounter

By, New Delhi
Aug 27, 2022 06:57 PM IST

Despite their loss, Satwik and Chirag will return with a men’s doubles bronze—a first for India and the country’s only second doubles medal after Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa claimed a women’s doubles bronze in 2011.

They fought hard. They threw themselves at everything. They even changed racquets that had snapped strings during rallies. They gave it their all. Yet it wasn’t their day as Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy lost the semi-finals of the World Championships after a marathon effort.

Malaysia's Aaron Chia, center, and Soh Wooi Yik, right, are congratulated by Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, left, and Chirag Shetty, center, of India after their men's doubles semifinal in the BWF World Championships in Tokyo.(AP)
Malaysia's Aaron Chia, center, and Soh Wooi Yik, right, are congratulated by Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, left, and Chirag Shetty, center, of India after their men's doubles semifinal in the BWF World Championships in Tokyo.(AP)

Following the battle of nerves that lasted an hour and 17 minutes, Malaysian sixth seeds Aaron Chia and Wooi Yik Soh proceeded to the final with a 20-22, 21-18, 21-16 victory at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday where they will face three-time world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia, who are now unbeaten in 19 matches from four World Championships.

“Obviously we are a bit disappointed. It was quite close and could have gone either way. I guess a few points here and there (cost us). Luck also wasn’t on our side today. But credit to them for playing a solid game and all the best for tomorrow," the 25-year-old Shetty said.

“We are right up there. We wanted to get a medal. Happy that we could. Obviously, we wanted to go further into the tournament but nevertheless, there will be chances in the future. So, looking forward.”

Shetty and Rankireddy will return with a men’s doubles bronze—a first for India and the country’s only second doubles medal after Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa claimed a women’s doubles bronze in 2011. The trailblazing duo also continued Indian badminton’s trend of returning home with at least one medal from the World Championships since 2011.

Despite a tight start, the Indian seventh seeds won a flurry of points to open up a 12-7 lead at the interval of the first game. Just when it was looking like Shetty and Rankireddy will be sixth time lucky—they had lost the previous five battles against the Malaysians—Soh and Chia clawed back to level the scores at 16-all. But some fantastic defensive skills, especially from the muscular yet agile Rankireddy, made sure the world No 7 pair kept their nose ahead. The reigning Commonwealth Games champions kept their cool to convert their second game point to draw first blood in 25 minutes.

The Malaysians came out stronger in the second game with deceptive shots and huge smashes. They decided to attack Shetty’s serve—which looked slightly weak on the day—gaining significant points in very short rallies. Even though the reigning Thomas Cup champions were pumped up with yells of ‘come on’, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists countered with brilliant defence and smart play at the net. One of the best in defence on the circuit, Chia used his short height to go low, dig deep and retrieve several of Rankireddy’s rocket smashes. The Malaysians never gave up the lead to push the match into the decider in another 25 minutes.

“When we won the first game, we could have put more pressure on them and pushed them in the second game itself. Maybe our attitude and body language showed that we are relaxed. They got their rhythm back despite being under pressure. We could have grabbed (hold of) those situations,” said the 22-year-old Rankireddy.

“When we started, we thought it was our game today. We could have controlled the second game as well. They are quite experienced in those first four strokes. We could have been calmer in the first four strokes. We were a little bit lazy and nervous in the first four (shots of a point).”

With all to play for, the decider remained tight with neither pair allowing the other to take more than a point’s gap. The third game had fantastic rallies—the longest being 47 shots—but the Malaysians kept finding something extra to hit those fine margins to keep their nose ahead. But the scenario completely changed when from 16-15 Chia and Soh won three points on the trot to put themselves at the gates of victory. Some lucky net cords and snapped strings of the Indians also helped the Malaysians. Shetty and Rankireddy pulled back a point but Chia and Soh held their nerves better to convert their first match point after a titanic battle.

“It was a good match. I feel we played 95%, close to our 100%. Unfortunately, we were unlucky all the time; snapped strings and net cords at crucial times irritated us. It was a tough loss but it’s been a good week for us. Kudos to them, they played really well and controlled their nerves," said Rankireddy.

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