Chirag Shetty’s badminton season for the year might have come to an end owing to an injury to his partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, but the 25-year-old is setting his sights on a crucial 2023.
In a conversation with Sportstar, he speaks about what went right this year, how to cope with injury to a partner and what the pair, who are at a career high World number 7, will be targeting next year.
How would you rate this season?
This season has been really good. We started out winning the India Open, then we followed that with the Thomas Cup win. Then there was the gold medal at the CWG Games, the World championship medal and we ended it ending with the French Open title. This year really couldn’t have been much better.
What would you consider the high point of the season?
The high point has to be the Thomas Cup because that was the first time we had won that tournament.
Right after that I’d place the Commonwealth Games gold and then the world championship bronze medal. The reason I enjoyed the Thomas Cup and the Commonwealth Games was because we learned so much from these tournaments. Each tournament has taught me something different but these two the most.
The Thomas Cup was one tournament where I might have played the worst I’ve ever played (they lost 21-11, 21-19 to Wang Chi-Lin and Lee Yang) in the group stage against Chinese Taipei and yet we ended up playing one of my best matches (they saved four match points before beating Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sanjaya 18-21, 23-21, 21-19) and helping the team win.
It taught me that no matter how down you are, you have to keep at it and there is the possibility of things turning around. It doesn’t matter how you have been playing as long as you stick to doing what is right. I was doing that and that’s how it turned out.
At the CWG, it was different. We lost the team finals. It was close but we were devastated that we couldn’t defend our gold. However, we felt that we had to come back really strong in the individual event and that’s what we were able to do and we ended up with our best showing in all these years.
Are there aspects of your game you have improved in? What other improvements are you targeting?
One thing we have most improved in is that we have become a lot more steadier. By that I mean our defence is a lot better. We are a lot more confident in our defensive capability. We aren’t scared to lift the shuttle high because even when the opponents smash or attack, we are comfortable with giving it back. That’s something we have improved a lot on compared to the previous years.
But while it’s improved a lot, technically, we would like to strengthen our defences even more. I’d like to work on our receive of serve. Most top pairs in the world are the ones who have a really good serve and that makes it easier to win the first few rounds. We need to make it a lot better.
How frustrating is it to deal with injuries to a partner which isn’t something you can control?
Injuries are a part of the sport and you need to try and reduce it as much as possible. There’s no way you can completely avoid it but we keep trying to do things in training so that we get as few as possible.
It’s quite challenging but we need to understand that it’s a part of this game and everyone has their highs and lows. Eventually, you will come back.
When an injury does happen, the most important thing is to keep a positive mindset. When one of us is not at complete fitness, the thing to do is try to keep ourself fit and injury free so that you are in the right place when your partner does come back.
In that time, I try to work on the things I normally wouldn’t. Doubles, of course, needs your partner but there is a lot of individual training that you have to do. Normally, when one of us is injured we work on that more rather than group training which we would do with a partner.
What are your targets for 2023?
2023 really important because it is the Olympic qualification year.
At the start of this year, I wanted to do well at the big events. That was our target and we were largely able to achieve that. \
Next year, we want to medal in the big events as well... especially the events we missed out on this year. I’d like to do well at the All England Open. It’s an event, we haven’t won or even reached the final in (they reached the quarterfinal in 2021). There is also the worlds and the Asian Games where we don’t have a medal (they lost in the round of 16 at the 2018 Games) . Barring that, we want to play well at the World Tour events because we need to maintain our rankings. But in terms of a number, both me and Satwik would want to enter the top 5 and I think we are capable of that. That is our next goal.