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Asian Games

Asian Games Badminton: Satwik-Chirag creates history, becomes 1st Indian pair to reach final

Satwik and Chirag made a lightwork of arch-rivals Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the semifinal. With this win, they created history, becoming the first Indian men's doubles pair to reach the Asian Games badminton final.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty Badminton
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Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty (Source: BWF)

By

Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 7 Oct 2023 6:52 AM GMT

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty reached the badminton men's doubles final at the Asian Games 2023 on Friday.

Satwik and Chirag, ranked third in the world, handed Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia a straight-game (21-17, 21-12) defeat in the semifinal. With this dominating victory, they assured India at least a silver medal. Never in the history of Indian badminton has any pair reached the final of the Asian Games.

It was the Indian pair's second straight win over Chia and Soh.

Playing against a pair who defeated them in eight straight matches might sound like a mountainous task, but Satwik and Chirag were in the form of their life. They made a lightwork of Chia and Soh, the world no. 5, in a match that lasted for a mere 45 minutes.

Slick communication, swift movement

In a battle, known for generating fast and flat exchanges, Satwik and Chirag were triumphant for possessing an impeccable defence, effecting slick communication and for their deft placement of the shuttle.

The opening game, in the beginning, was a close affair, with Satwik and Chirag winning the first point before Chia and Soh drew level at 3-3 and then at 4-4, as they got engaged in quick exchanges and there was a battle to win at the net.

Till 10-10, it was a neck-to-neck battle. But Satwik and Chirag edged out Chia and Soh, taking an 11-10 at the interval, with the Malaysians' defence getting split after Satwik and Chirag puzzled them with a pacy game. Satwik clinched the winner with a rapid smash from the net.

The Indians would soon break away to a 14-10 lead, with Chirag standing like a wall with his constant retrievals in front of Chia and Soh's relentless smashing - their trusted style of play.

Targeting Satwik did not yield any points for the Malaysians either. With an impeccable defence, Satwik was retrieving almost everything. The Indian pair exchanged their positions - back and forth - in a rhythmical style at a rapid pace to stay up in the rally and won points with accurate placements that would come as a massive blow to Chia and Soh. They were frustrated. Their faces were pale. At 16-10, Chirag won a point by charging at the net with a fast flick after Chia tried to fetch a winner with a backhand return. Chirag's shot ran into Soh's body eventually.

Chirag and Satwik were adept at the net too. They converted such defences into offences several times with their wristy returns and net kills. Their smashes were too fast that Chia's flat return and Soh's angled flick went wide following an intense exchange of the game. The Indians would eventually win the first game 21-17 and earn a crucial 1-0 lead in the match.

Rapid defence-offence duet

Satwik and Chirag resumed the second game as the dominant pair and broke away to a 4-1 lead. Variation and change of pace also worked in the Indian shuttlers' favour. A half smash by Satwik and Chirag's soft hand return at this stage kept Chia and Soh, who enjoyed such an advantage over the Indians in the past but not today, guessing the Indians' strokes.

Satwik and Chirag played so fast that it rattled Chia and Soh so much that they both came on the same line on multiple occasions to give away soft points to India. At 9-3, Chirag's quick reflection lands in the backcourt, which was apparently empty, with Chia and Soh staring at it baffled. For the next point, Satwik smashed, and Chia played it into the net to give away an 11-3 lead to the Indians.

Even as Chia won a couple of points with his brilliant serves, it did not make any difference in the game. Satwik-Chirag raced away to a 13-5 lead, with Chia's returns falling flat at the net after the Indians engaged them in rapid exchanges. In an identical play, Chia and Soh conceded a 16-7 lead to the Indians. But they would win three points in a row, with an unforced error from Satwik going wide.

But the world no. 3 Indian pair would soon propel to 20-10, taking a whopping 10 match points. Two points in a row for Chia and Soh meant Satwik and Chirag's wait for the historic win got a bit longer. But Chirag has been in fiery form and rattled Soh with back-to-back smashes to fetch the winner at 21-12.

Satwik and Chirag are the first Indian pair to reach the final of the Asian Games. Now, their fiery form deserves a touch of gold when they take on Choi Solgyu and Kim Wonho of South Korea in the final on Saturday.

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