Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy can be undoubtedly regarded as two of the most dependable Indian athletes currently. Their track record speaks for itself; winning 8 out of 10 finals they participate in puts them in a league of their own. Their consistency can be compared to the legendary performance of Nadal at Roland Garros.
Satwik and Chirag were disappointed in their early exits in the Thailand and Singapore Open as they set off for the Indonesia Open. Winning a Super 1000 event had never been achieved by an Indian pair before. While Satwik and Chirag had the potential, their recent performances could have indicated a better form.
In the pre-quarterfinals of the tournament, the Chinese duo of He Ji Ting and Zhou Hao Dong provided a challenge for Satwik and Chirag. However, the Indian pair maintained a commanding lead throughout the match, ultimately securing a victory with a score of 21-17, 21-15, without allowing their opponents to catch up.
The Indian duo faced a significant challenge in the next match against the top-ranked pair, Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto, who were the crowd favorites. However, with their attacking prowess, Satwik and Chirag impressively silenced the spectators at Jakarta’s Istora Senayan Stadium. They dominated the match and secured a spot in the semifinals, winning convincingly with a score of 21-13, 21-13.
Satwik said, “After winning the quarterfinals, we believed it was a great opportunity to advance as far as possible.”
In retrospect, the semifinals against the unseeded South Korean opponents proved to be the pivotal match that prepared the Indian duo for the final. Kang Min Hyuk and Seo Seung Jae claimed victory in the first game with a score of 21-17. However, Satwik and Chirag shifted into their attacking mode and triumphed in the next two games, securing wins of 21-19 and 21-18.
Satwik, one-half of India’s gold medal-winning duo at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, expressed, “Since our triumph in the Thomas Cup, everything has transformed for Chirag and me. We are now confident that we can perform exceptionally well on grander platforms. Whenever we are presented with an opportunity, we seize it with determination.” Satwik further shared these thoughts.
Before their victory in the Indonesia Open final, Satwik and Chirag had faced eight defeats against the Malaysian pair of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in their previous encounters on the circuit. However, the confidence gained from their triumph in the quarterfinals was evident in the performance of the Indian duo.
Adapting their strategy, Satwik and Chirag cleverly denied the Malaysians the fast-paced game they desired and instead enticed them into making mistakes through their open play. Their tactic proved successful as they achieved a historic moment in just 43 minutes, securing a victory with a score of 21-17, 21-18.
Satwik said, “We don’t allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the rankings or reputation of our opponents, whether world number one or number two. We try not to overthink during our matches. In my view, everyone experiences pressure, including us. Even if we hold the position of world number three, we never assume that we will automatically win a match. We maintain the same level of focus consistently. Our approach is to go out there and enjoy ourselves. This particular tournament was especially enjoyable for us.”
“It ultimately boils down to mentality. It’s about the extent of your desire to win, your strength on the court, and your unwavering focus. Our mindset has transformed, as well as our belief in ourselves. Our opponents now show us respect, sometimes translating into gaining additional points.”
The somewhat shaken belief in Singapore and Thailand has been fully restored. The chemistry between Satwik and Chirag, which sets them apart from any previous Indian men’s pair in terms of consistent performance, is now back to its peak form.
Satwik emphasized that their chemistry is their strongest asset.
The 22-year-old shuttler from Andhra Pradesh expressed, “I believe that our understanding and synergy are our greatest strengths. Compared to other teams, Chirag and I have a remarkable on-court rapport. When we play, it feels like two bodies but one soul are on the court. The chemistry between Chirag and me is our advantageous edge.”
Currently ranked at world No. 3, Satwik and Chirag have steadily maintained their position within the top 10 for a significant duration. While reaching the number one spot in the BWF rankings is undoubtedly a dream for them, it does not occupy their thoughts, even as they edge closer to the pinnacle.
“When asked about their aspirations of becoming world number one, Satwik responded, ‘Fingers crossed, hopefully soon.’ He added, ‘Typically, as I mentioned before, we don’t excessively focus on rankings. However, being the world number one is indeed one of our dreams.'”