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Satwik-Chirag withdraw from Indonesia Open

After a shock first-round defeat at the Singapore Open, the defending champions pulled out the Indonesia Open Super 1000.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty Badminton

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty suffered their first opening-round exit of the season at the Singapore Open Super 750 last week. (Photo credit: Badminton Photo/BWF)


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 3 Jun 2024 2:47 PM GMT

India's top men's doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty pulled out of their title defence at the Indonesia Open Super 1000, suggesting an injury to one of the two players affecting their rhythm before the all-important Paris Olympics.

At the recent Singapore Open Super 750, Satwik and Chirag received a blot from the blue.

A 20-22, 18-21 defeat in the first round was not something that the world no. 1 duo had imagined even in the wildest of their dreams.

The loss against Daniel Lundgaard and Mads Vestegaard - a pair ranked 33 places below the top-seeded Indian duo - is bound to leave a deep scar in Satwik and Chirag's rather mindboggling campaign this season.

With two World Tour title wins, a repeat of their feats at the French Open Super 750 - their second title since 2022, and the Thailand Open - their second since 2019, the season has brought rewards.

They had made a remarkable start to the season despite losing in the final in the season opener at the Malaysia Open Super 1000 and India Open Super 750.

Satwik and Chirag regained their top ranking in May. But now, their withdrawal from the Indonesia Open came as another blow. This coming on the back of an unexpected loss against world no. 34 Lundgaard and Vestegaard last week will undoubtedly cast a show of doubt that will pose more questions than answers.

The Singapore conundrum

In the opening round of the Singapore Open, what many have presumed as a 'walk in the park' for Satwik and Chirag turned out to be one of the biggest upsets of recent times.

Needless to say, Satwik and Chirag were not prepared for this outlandish show. "We never really got going," Satwik was quoted as saying by BWF after their shock defeat.

Had they finished the favourable first game, from the dominating position of 20-18, the result could have been different. But Lundgaard and Vestegaard's diligent planning, coupled with their imposing presence at the net, saw them prevail.

They saved two game points before adding two more to their credit to steal the game.

Indians were visibly rattled by the audacity of the young Danes, who refused to succumb to the pressure that they were playing the world no. 1.

"'We' made some unforced errors and never recovered," Satwik would concede.

"We could have done better, a point here and a point there could have changed the rhythm," Chirag would say.

The Dane duo never allowed the Indians to get the going. Their intent to initiate the attack and take control of the game with a combination of speed and quick exchanges left the Indians flummoxed.

With the gap at the net narrowed and little space offered to drive the shuttle to the back of the court, errors crept into the game of Satwik and Chirag.

Satwik and Chirag looked rusty. Their bulldozing smashes became scarce and, they were at the receiving end instead. Every time Vestegaard smashed, the Indian duo was left searching for answers. Perhaps, during this intense game, the Indian pair picked up an injury, forcing them to withdraw from their title defence at Jakarta's Istora Gelora Bung Karno.

Given their first-round exit in Singapore, it was tough to decipher that the Indians emerged victorious at the Thailand Open just a week before.

The disadvantage of being the world no. 1 is that you are always closely followed by your opponents. The way they felt trapped against the unheralded Dane pair, it would not miss the astute eyes of coaches, including Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang's, one of the ferocious on-court rivals of the Indian combo. It served as a template for their competitors to replicate.

Timely reminder

Before the Paris Olympics, the defeat came as a grim reminder of the uncertainty associated with the game.

Although Satwik and Chirag have dealt with such adverse results on the tour before as well, such a defeat just a month and a half before the Olympics where they are the top-seeded pair and arguably one of the favourites for the gold medal in men's doubles, serves as a timely reminder that they cannot drop their guard.

Whilst seeking to avoid a repeat of Tokyo 2020, what Satwik and Chirag need at the moment is more variations and an element of surprise in their game to stay ahead. Much like An Sen Young and Viktor Axelsen did in women's and men's singles, and Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong in mixed doubles.

At the Indonesia Open, where they became the first Indian pair ever to win the title last year, Satwik and Chirag gave a walkover to Malaysia's world no. 20 Man Wei Chong and Kai Wun Tee this week.

Last year, Satwik and Chirag defeated their archnemesis and former world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the final. By winning the match in straight games, Satwik and Chirag put an end to their eight-match losing streak against Chia and Soh and won three on the trot.

But now their withdrawal from the event has come as a big blow to their preparations for the Paris Olympics, with the Indonesia Open being one of the biggest attractions on the World Tour where all top doubles pairings will be in the fray.

Chance to make amends

India's prospects in the remaining field remain transient. With world no. 10 HS Prannoy still searching for form after a rollicking season in 2023, and Lakshya Sen striving for consistency, India's hopes in men's singles hang by a thread. Kidambi Srikanth's form is not promising either.

PV Sindhu's high in the Malaysia Masters final was short-lived by her second-round exit from the Singapore Open. Her loss against old foe Carolina Marin was her 12th and sixth straight.

Sindhu's struggle in three-game contests against tougher opponents is a well-documented fact. At the Malaysia Masters final, too, she lost to Wang Zhiyi in the decider.

The trio will look to amend their form and performances at the world's third Super 1000 event.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of positives in the women's doubles arena.

Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand have set aside the disappointment of missing an Olympic berth and produced one of the most promising performances at the Singapore Open, taking down the World no. 2 Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee and world no. 6 Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong, en route to their semifinal appearance.

On the back of this morale-boosting performance, Treesa and Gayatri will now seek to revive their careers after a year that saw their form falling by the wayside.

Whilst riding on the back of the latest high, the young duo would do well to accept the inevitable: wins are inexorable as are losses. They should not feel complacent or flabbergasted when the results change sides.

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