India’s top-ranked men’s doubles pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty displayed an attacking display of badminton to storm into the finals of the ongoing French Open Super 750 on Saturday. The 11th seeded pair made Diwali special for all badminton lovers in India as they outclassed Japanese duo Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe 21-11, 25-23.
Satwik and Chirag, especially the latter, started the game on a bright note. The 22-year-old was in great touch from the start as he hit some sensational shots from the forecourt to help his team take an early 5-2 lead. Then, Satwik joined the party, keeping a point alive with back-to-back behind-the-back shots where he had no right to. Chirag finished that off to make it 8-5. By the time the game went into the breather, the Indians had a healthy six-point advantage.
As play resumed, they continued in a similar fashion, maintaining their lead and fighting off anything the Japanese threw at them. Soon, they would wrap up the game 21-11. Satwik and Chirag appeared to be in perfect tandem, combining defence and attack with impeccable tenacity.
The second game was more closely contested. The Japanese duo had raced off to a 3-0 lead and maintained their advantage until 8-5. But then, Satwik and Chirag claimed six consecutive points to go into the breather with a lead yet again. Thereafter, it became a more heated affair with the Japanese pair saving as many as four match points, but eventually, it was the Indians who had the last laugh.
The win meant that they become the first Indian men's doubles pair to make it to the final of a Superseries Premier/Super 750+ event. In other words, this will be their biggest ever final to date.
With this win, Satwik and Chirag have now won five of their last eight matches against players ranked in the top 10 in the BWF World Rankings. Even if they go on to lose the final, the young duo will break into the World top-10 for the very first time come next Tuesday.
Satwik and Chirag have been in superb form this week, setting the bar high with their aggressive style of play. In the pre-quarters, they had defeated World Champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia 21-18, 18-21, 21-13 to progress to the last 8. They were up against World No. 8 pair Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen 21-13, 22-20 to secure a berth in the semis.
Next up, in the final, Satwik and Chirag will face their toughest task yet in the form of World No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo. Last year, at this very tournament, the Indians had been ousted by the same Indonesian pair in the semifinals. This time, they have the perfect opportunity to exact revenge.