After CWG, Satwik-Chirag eye Thomas Cup gold

17-year-old Satwik is now busy preparing for his 12th standard board exams, while his partner Chirag is attending all the felicitation programs.

Once the exams are over, Satwik Rankireddy (left) will join the camp in the next 10 days, while Chirag Chandrashekhar Shetty will start his training from Wednesday.   -  AFP

After a stupendous performance in badminton’s mixed-team and men’s doubles events, at the 21st Commonwealth Games (CWG), the young Indian pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty has now trained its eyes on returning with the coveted gold from May’s Thomas Cup.

A week after becoming the first Indian men’s doubles pair to win a silver at a Commonwealth Games, 17-year-old Satwik is now busy preparing for his 12th standard board exams, while his partner Chirag is attending all the felicitation programs.

Once the exams are over, Satwik will join the camp in the next 10 days, while Chirag, on the other hand, will start his training from Wednesday, with the duo aiming another good performance at the Thomas Cup, to be held from May 20 to 27, in Bangkok.

“I am preparing for 12th exams and I will join the camp in 10 days, for our preparation for Thomas Cup. We have a great chance to win the team event, as we have three strong singles and two doubles,” Satwik said.

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Chirag, who has gone to Mumbai, to spend time with family, said: “I think we have a great chance of winning a medal. Our top three singles players are in top 20 and then we have Sameer Verma, and in doubles, also apart from us, there is Manu (Attri) and Sumeeth (Reddy). So, if we can pull off one doubles, we can win.”

“Srikanth, Prannoy and Sai Praneeth have already proven themselves and we are also confident that we can beat the best players from China, Japan and Indonesia,” he added.

At Gold Coast, Satwik and Chirag gave ample display of their prowess, as they helped the team win gold and then clinched an unprecedented silver, and they described it as their biggest achievement, till date.

“Till now, it is our biggest achievement, winning a medal in men doubles feels so amazing, since till now nobody won it and so it’s really special,” Satwik said.

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Chirag said: “The feeling of winning a silver has sunk in now. It was our very first CWG and returning with a gold and silver was a dream come true. A year back, we didn’t even think of qualifying. Our only aim was to get higher in ranking.”

“We have never won a gold in the mixed team championship, in any of the major tournaments, like the CWG, Asian Games or Thomas Cup, for the last 45 years. So, it was very special for us.”

So, was it all play and no fun? Chirag said: “It was physically draining, playing back-to-back weeks. We spent the most of the time with our teams, but on the last day, we hung out with the squash and table tennis team, inside the village. I wanted to meet Usain Bolt, but he didn’t come to the athlete's village, so I couldn’t.”

Satwik too had his moments with his fellow athletes. “I got a chance to meet so many top players and I took some selfies as well, and I made some new friends as well.”

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Talking about the schedule in 2018, Chirag said: “After the Thomas, we will have three back-to-back tournaments, at Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but there will be 20-25 days to prepare for that. We will also have two weeks to prepare for the World Championship, and another two weeks before we go to the Asian Games.”

The two players feel that it is their attacking game and on-court chemistry which earned them rewards and they will need to work on defence.

“We gel very well on the court, now. I have started playing well at the net and create an opening for Satwik, and I am sure if we can keep our attack for 90 percent of the time, there are hardly any pair who we can not beat. So, it is the attack and chemistry that helps us to play against higher ranked pairs,” Chirag said.

Satwik said: “I think we need to practice on defence and we need to develop our mental strength.” Asked about targets, Satwik said: “This year, we want to be in the top 15 and we want to maintain that, and to play finals in super series events.”

Satwik also spoke about the role of Ashwini Ponnappa in his success. “I think she is amazing during big matches. She showed her experience in this tournament. She played the key role in the mixed-double match. Our strategies worked really well. In 2018, we played the India Open quarterfinal and we will play more tournaments from now on.”