Badminton: Satwik-Chirag beat world No.3 pair in the opening round of Tokyo Olympics
India's badminton men's double pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty won the first round of the Tokyo Olympics
Indian men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty dished out a sensational show to beat the world no. 3 pair of Yang Lee and Chi-Lin Wang of Chinese Taipei in a thrilling group A match to make a superb start to their maiden Olympic campaign here on Saturday.
Chirag and Satwik, world no. 10, notched up a stunning 21-16 16-21 27-25 win over third seeds Lee and Wang, who had claimed back-to-back titles at the Yonex Thailand Open, Toyota Thailand Open and BWF World Tour Finals earlier this year.
However, 13th seeded B Sai Praneeth suffered a demoralizing 17-21 15-21 loss to world number 47 Misha Zilberman of Israel in a 41-minute men's singles group D match.
Satwik and Chirag matched their fancied rivals both in attack and defence during the one-hour and six-minute contest, which turned out to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The Indian duo ran up a 7-2 lead early on, before entering the break at 11-7. Satwik and Chirag continued to move ahead and eventually grabbed the opening game. In the second game, it was Lee and Wang who converted most of the opportunities but the Indian duo managed to keep breathing down their neck at 8-10.
After the interval, the Chinese duo changed gears and soon bounced back into the contest. In the decider, the Indian pair enjoyed a slender 2-0 lead, which was quickly erased by their rivals. The two pairs moved neck-and-neck from there on till 10-10. A net error by Satwik allowed the Chinese Taipei pair to held a one-point lead at the break.
Satwik and Chirag trailed 11-13 but two successive points helped them draw parity. Errors crept in for the Indians as their opponents led 17-14. A powerful smash was followed by a poor serve by Chirag but Satwik unleashed a smash to make it 15-18. A smash by Satwik and a superb serve and a follow-up body return by Chirag helped the Indian duo draw parity.
Lee and Wang then erred at the net as it was an advantage for India. The Chinese Taipei duo then made it 20-20 before sending the shuttle long as match points exchanged hands frequently with both the pairs looking to outwit each other. Two lucky net chords helped the Chinese pair make it 24-24 before they grabbed a match point. But they failed to convert it and then with the shuttle going long, India once again had another match point.
Chirag and Satwik grabbed it this time when their opponent goofed up at the forecourt.
Earlier, Praneeth jeopardized his qualification to the knockout stage after going down to Zilberman.
Praneeth, a 2019 World Championship bronze medallist and now ranked 15th, will next face world number 29 Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands. In the opening game, Praneeth raced to an 8-4 lead early on but soon Zilberman reeled off five straight points to turn the table as the Indian committed a series of unforced errors. The Indian entered the break with a one-point advantage after Zilberman made an error.
Praneeth lacked in his execution, which allowed Zilberman to lead 15-13. The Israeli shuttler dominated the proceedings next to zoom to 19-14 as the Indian miscued a few shots. A cross-court smash helped Zilberman grab six-game points and he sealed it on his fourth attempt.
A fired-up Zilberman continued to look good with Praneeth sending the first two shuttles long. The Israeli soon led 8-5. Zilberman continued to dictate terms in the rallies as Praneeth trailed 7-11 at the interval.
Praneeth couldn't match the pace of his opponent, who seemed to be playing at a different level. Zilberman eventually grabbed eight match points after Praneeth went long again and sealed the match with a smash.