File image of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.(File)
File image of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.(File)

Rankireddy hopes up after Thai Open doubles run

  • Either side of the Covid bout though Rankireddy ensured he trained regularly to keep fitness levels up. That was on show during the two Thailand Opens—where the Indian campaign ended on Saturday.
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 07:55 AM IST

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy spent most of 2020 playing PUBG. The shuttler’s obsession with the mobile video game increased a notch when he tested positive for Covid-19 in the middle of the year. With nothing much to do at home in Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh, it was the game that kept the 20-year-old engaged through the month he was isolated due to the virus.

Either side of the Covid bout though Rankireddy ensured he trained regularly to keep fitness levels up. That was on show during the two Thailand Opens—where the Indian campaign ended on Saturday. His spectacular jump smashes catapulted him to the doubles semi-finals of not just the men’s with Chirag Shetty, but in mixed doubles too, with Ashwini Ponnappa. “Ek hi cheez (smash) to aata hai, aur kuch aata hi nahi (the only thing I can do well),” Rankireddy laughed, after losing both the last four matches in Bangkok on Saturday.

The two pairs may have lost in the semis but not before giving the Indian contingent renewed hope in doubles. With no match practice, a Covid bout, and barely two months of training together, Shetty/Rankireddy and Ponnappa/Rankireddy outplayed and outsmarted several higher-ranked opponents to reach the semis of a Super 1000 event for the first time.

Super 1000 is the highest tier on the BWF World Tour—they are ranked only below Majors like the Olympics and world championships—that includes the prestigious All England, China Open and Indonesia Open. The events were rearranged this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Since it’s our first Super 1000 (semis), we’re really happy,” Shetty said from the airport before taking his Bangkok-Dubai-Hyderabad flight. Shetty and Rankireddy lost 18-21, 18-21 to Malaysian eighth seeds Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in 35 minutes at the Impact Arena. “We may not be playing at the same level when we won tournaments in 2019 but it’s still about 80 percent. We have to take into account that we were probably the only country not to play any domestic tournament. Disappointed with the loss but it is definitely an encouraging restart for us.”

Rankireddy said going into the tournaments without expectations helped deliver the results that will boost their confidence once Olympic qualification resumes in March.

“We were not confident in the first week. But this week I just went in thinking to play my best and not worry about results,” Rankireddy said, after he and Ponnappa lost 20-22, 21-18, 12-21 in 59 minutes to Thai top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

B Sai Praneeth, who tested positive for Covid-19 and had to withdraw from the tournament, has tested negative twice and is taking the return flight to India with Shetty.

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This handout from the Badminton Association of Thailand taken and released on January 19, 2021 shows India's Pusarla V. Sindhu hitting a shot against Thailand's Busanan Ongbamrungphan during their women's singles first round match at the Toyota Thailand Open badminton tournament in Bangkok. (Photo by Handout / BADMINTON ASSOCIATION OF THAILAND / AFP) / -----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / BADMINTON ASSOCIATION OF THAILAND " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS(AFP)
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