In quick time, the men’s doubles combination of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy have broken into the World’s top-10 ranking.
The remarkable hard work of this young pair, coupled with the efforts put in by the overseas coaches - who came and left by turns - has largely contributed to some excitement coming India’s way from men’s doubles.
With Olympics not very far away, the duo is the only pair - with a career-high ranking of World No. 7 in November 2019 - to qualify from India.
Currently ranked 10th in the world, this pair has a 12-4 win-loss record this year. Having reached the semifinals of Thailand Open and Swiss Open, Chirag and Satwik exited in the second round of All England.
Indeed, there have been a few takeaways for them from the limited competitive badminton this year. With the Badminton World Federation (BWF) curtailing the tournament schedule in view of the rising number of Covid cases, Chirag and Satwik are taking things as they come.
“We are very keen to do well in next month’s India Open. In the last couple of editions, we did not do as well as expected. Playing without spectators is also going to be tough. Initially, we were hoping that our family members and friends could be allowed but now we realise it is better for them to stay indoors at these times,” said Satwik, and Chirag agreed.
They realise that their similar styles of play - both compulsive attackers - makes them predictable when pitted against some top-class opposition. “Yes. It is not possible to keep attacking all the time. We know we need to have a Plan ‘B’ and we are working towards it,” said Satwik.
Talking about the difference in playing strengths of the leading pairs of the world and their own, Satwik said, “I feel the experience of the top-five pairs makes a huge difference. We made it to the top-10 just a couple of years ago whereas some of the top pairs have been around for much longer. To beat a top-five pair, you have to play at your best. Again, that is not possible. I think, at present, their vast experience makes them better than us.”
Looking ahead to the Olympics, they are aware of the added pressure of expectations. “It is better to stay focussed on giving your best and not worry about expectations,” said Chirag.