Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who hails from Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh, has recently been conferred with Arjuna Award along with his mate and doubles partner Chirag Shetty.
Their path-breaking victory at Thailand Open Super 500 tournament and silver at the French Open made them huge favourites for the Arjuna.
Shuttlers Satwik and Chirag had a breakthrough season as they claimed their maiden Super 500 title at Thailand Open to become India's first men's doubles badminton pair to win a Super Series title, and finished runners-up at the French Open Super 750 to grab a career-best ranking of world number 7.
Satwik and Chirag this duo pair are among the players, from whom not only foreign coach Limpele, but whole India has high hopes that if they work more hard with dedication and consistency, then they can bring an Olympic medal home.
“They have made good progress this year but there are few things which they need to change. They have the capability to win a medal at Olympics but they need to be more consistent in terms of shot selection, on-court strategy and have to improve overall,” Limpele, told PTI.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Tokyo Olympics qualifications has been cancelled and rescheduled for 2021, due to which the duo felt bad for no training and events, but Arjuna Award has boosted Satwik to focus more on his ultimate goal to get an Olympic medal for the nation and to be World No.1.
Satwik along with Chirag is currently ranked World No.10 in men's doubles. Asked about Olympic qualifications, Satwik told that if you are in top-16 World ranking, you are qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, so according to the selection criteria where a maximum of one pair taken in turn, this way, Satwik and Chirag have high chance to play their dream Olympics next year.
Satwik is very much thankful to his parents for their constant support to him and he is very much inspired by his father Mr Vishwanadham Rankireddy, who had trained many national players that too in multi-sport.
"He was the physical education director in government school and turned so many people as national player, recently few players got selected to university in badminton like Bala, Satish, Sunil these players played state level tournaments as well.
"He is big inspiration to many people for his discipline, and I really got aspired seeing him and wanted to make his dream come true", Satwik mentioned to The Bridge.
"Don't worry about the battles you've lost, focus on winning the war." Satwik feels winning and loosing doesn't matter much, what matters is passion for the game and dedication, one day you will surely succeed.
Like any other Indian athlete dream, Satwik also has a dream to win an Olympic medal for the country, and become world number one.
The 20-year old, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy had an exclusive telephonic interview with The Bridge, where he took us through his journey and shared some strategies and tips.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q- Satwik, first of all, I want to know from you, how you feel at the moment knowing that now you are an Arjuna Awardee?
Satwik: Well, actually I didn't expected and never thought that I would achieve it so soon that too coming for both of us (Chirag and I) is really wonderful, like before only one player used to get Arjuna award from badminton and this is the first time, when both partners are getting it. So, when I heard award is for both, I was extremely happy to know as we both played, we both won, we both did together and achieved, so extremely happy for the award.
Q- To whom you would like to thank for the award and why so?
Satwik: Definitely, I would like to thank my parents, coaches and support staff who has been working so hard behind me, they are the back bone of me. So, I would dedicate this award to them.
Q- Tell us about your sporting journey as Indian shuttler so far? When did you turned pro?
Satwik: It's been a long journey from past 8 years when I joined Gopichand academy, it was like a rollercoaster ride ups and downs. I started playing singles and doubles, but the consequences were good in doubles and I was interested in doubles as well, so I shifted completely to doubles and left singles.
Before joining academy, I use to play at my home town, Amalapuram my father was my first coach and I wasn't playing for professional thing, but I use to play districts tournaments. Only then in one of the districts, we won doubles and then we got entry for state tournament that time I was under-13, when I won our first state championship as well. First time I played state, so won at first attempt, then I got entry for nationals, so we played quarter-finals that time it was a good achievement that even without having proper practice I played quarter-finals, was too good then parents thought that now we should provide him a proper facilities and he need professional training, so I went and joined the academy and that's how I became a professional shuttler.
Q- What sort of struggles do you faced in your career? How did you overcome out of those situations?
Satwik: Intially, it was academy fees was high that time and to play tournaments on your own without sponsors that was really the tough time for my parents, but they managed somehow, they never told about such issues to me. They themselves kept hide inside and struggled for me when I started winning tournaments in India, then academy told to me pay half fee and substantially, I got Yonex and Gosports as sponsors… Like that it was fine later when I started playing internationals, then again struggled for finances before it was in thousands and now it's in lakhs, they didn't said anything when coach told that your child has to play more tournaments for better experience and you have to manage on your own, they said ok sir, will make him play don't worry about expenses. They struggled for 1-2-years and when me and Chirag started playing good, then we came into the Indian team then everything changed up.
Q- Who is your inspiration and why?
Satwik: I have been inspired by my father, he use to give coaching to many players at my home town not only badminton but many sports, and that's how I got interested in badminton. He made many players to reach national level tournaments in other sports and I got inspired by seeing them how proud one feel when you play for your state and when you play for India that's the dream of my father as well to play for India, so I really got aspired wen he told me these things.
Q- Who were your challengers/competitors in your sporting career? How did you faced them?
Satwik: They are many player who were challengers in the journey, but for me if you ask personally, I feel playing with your own team mates or your co-players is really tough because you play with them daily and practice along, so they know your game pretty much and they give a tough fight always.
Q- When did you made your debut at National and International level ?
Satwik: I played my first nationals in 2011 at Delhi , and I made my debut in Internationals in the year 2014.
Q- Which of your skills make you apt for the sports? How do you become interested in Badminton?
Satwik: As I told you, by seeing my father I got more interested in badminton and my brother use to play as well, skill wise I don't have any proper skill or any technique, the only skill I have is smash which I use to hit shuttle hard from young age so that's only skill I have even now as well(He laughed).
Satwiksairaj Reddy and Chirag Shetty (Source source: Facebook / BAI)
Q- What motivates you the most around you?
Satwik: Watching seniors playing motivates me like how hard it's to achieve to that goal like to be World number 1 or to win Olympics. It always motivates me when your seniors is doing more hard work then you, and I get many good suggestions from my brother and friends whenever I feel down, they always motivates me and seniors share their experiences as well. It always keep so much inspiring and had great motivation too.
Q- What's your highest achievement in the journey till now, in which event and against whom?
Satwik: That's Commonwealth Games, where we won the team event gold for the first time ever and won silver in individual, then again Thailand open was most memorable as we were first doubles player ever to won and getting into top 10 was soo special and memorable and highest achievements for me.
Q- You along Chirag won the Thailand Open Super 500 championship last year defeating reigning world champions of China. What's the strategy behind and whom you would like to thanks for the success? Share your experience?
Satwik: First of all, there was no strategy, we didn't expect we will play finals as we both were injured in between tournament our strategy was to go there and give 100% and not to get tensed because it was our first ever finals in such big tournament. Definitely I will thank my physios for that tournament, they worked really hard that time day and night, cared about us and fans for there huge support.
Q- What's your training methodology nowadays due to Covid-19? What's the situation in Hyderabad, How are you cope with it?
Satwik: Well I am not in Hyderabad currently, I am at my home town (Amalapuram) from last 6 moths. As much as training is concerned, we have online training sessions morning and evening both, so we follow that and doing fitness and gym at home itself.
Q- How was your experience of PBL so far, specially with winning team of PBL season 5, Chennai Superstarz? Do you feel it helped you and other shuttlers to reach higher in the career, improved International ranking?
Satwik: PBL is definitely a big thing happened in my badminton career, it has given me an opportunity at such young age to watch all World top players and practice along with them. Playing the league definitely has helped many players especially for doubles players, I gain so much and learnt many things in PBL, like as a team how you should perform and many strategy, also many international players treated as friends. Definitely one of the big thing happened in my badminton career so far where I got great exposure.
Q- Who was your toughest opponent in the doubles journey ever or I say the most difficult win so far?
Satwik: It's the World No.1 pair from Indonesia, they have been the toughest opponents for us and the biggest win for us is Thailand open finals is biggest win against Chinese.
Q- What's your next big goal/target towards your sporting career? Aim for the Olympics?
Satwik: My next goal towards sporting career is to break inin the World Top-3 in doubles and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but my ultimate target is definitely to get an Olympic medal home for the nation and also want to be World No.1.
Q- Who is your most favourite shuttler of all time?
Satwik: Favourite shuttler, I have many but for me the most is Hendra Setiawan from Indonesia, a big inspiration and my favourite person and also definitely Gopi sir is my favourite due to his hardwork and passion about game.
Q- At last I Would like you to give some tips to those young paddlers regard training and how to be a successful athlete, who consider you as their role model?
Satwik: For youngsters you need discipline, determination, and dedication is more important. Definitely it will take time initially but the journey towards becoming a champion will be awesome, so trust yourself, be disciplined and don’t need to worry about winning and losing, just enjoy the journey one day definitely you will surely become a big player...And ya you need to sacrifice lot of things, if you desire to be a champion.
India's next assignment is the twice-rescheduled Thomas and Uber Cup Finals which is slated to be held from October 3 to 11 in Aarhus, Denmark.
Satwik is very much awaiting for the events to get restarted again and to play his first ever Olympic stint and for that he is working extremely hard with full determination even amid pandemic.