"Satwik-Chirag will bring laurels in future" - former coach Vimal Kumar
Lamenting the tough luck of Satwik-Chirag, veteran coach Vimal Kumar expresses his disappointment with Sai Praneeth and pins hopes on PV Sindhu.
Luck is one enigmatic factor an athlete cannot attain complete control of. Hard work, dedication, determination and rigorous training are indispensable ingredients for any athlete to achieve success at the highest level.
But even after putting up the best of the performances, sometimes you finish without achieving the desired result. And that is exactly what happened to Indian shuttlers Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty on Day 4 of the Tokyo Olympics.
The World No. 10 Indian pair had to bow out of the Tokyo Olympics even after thrashing Great Britain's Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, 21-17, 21-19, in the Japanese capital in their final Group A match.
Satwik and Chirag finished third in their group behind the Indonesian and Chinese Taipei pairs, although all the three pairs won two matches each and lost one match each after playing three matches each.
Even though the Indians were aware of their fate, they took on the British pair with all positiveness and finished their campaign on a high, beating the Britons in straight games.
Tuesday's win was their second in Group A, which had been regarded as the 'Group of Death.'
Even before the games of the 32nd Olympics started, the Indian youngsters, who played their first Olympics in Tokyo, were shown a red signal by the experts for being placed in a group which comprised Indonesia's World No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Chinese Taipei's World No. 3 duo Yang Lee and Wang Chi-Lin.
Needless to say, it was not an easy group for the Indian shuttlers. Yet, they punched above their weight in their very first outing when they scripted a terrific comeback win against Lee and Chi-Lin. The three-game match went down to the wire as there were 11 match points - six for India and five for Chinese Taipei.
Satwik and Chirag showed their characters on the big occasion, living up to the acrobatic challenges posed by the opposition with the smooth execution of their plans. The teamwork the Indian duo had shown was magnificent. To their spirit and confidence, Yang Lee and Wang Chi-Lin eventually had to bow down as Satwik's quick shot did not get a return from the opposition in their sixth match point. India won the match 21-16, 16-21, 27-25.
Though their start was brilliant, the Indian pair had suffered a crushing defeat at the hand of the 2018 Asian Games gold medallists Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya in their second match on Monday. The Indonesians imposed a straight-game, 21-13, 21-12, defeat on the Indians. The match was over within 32 minutes. This defeat ultimately proved costly for Satwik and Chirag.
A tale of luck and close margins
"It's really unfortunate and bad luck. The match they played against the Indonesian pair cost them dearly. Chirag and Satwik have started very well. It was a terrific win for them against the Chinese Taipei pair. In their second match, they would have done good had they been a little defensive in their approach. The Indoesian pair got their tactic right against the Indians. It was a tactical game which forced Chirag and Satwik to concede both games. Even if they had taken a game off the Indonesians, they could have made it to the knockout stage," lamented veteran coach Vimal Kumar.
On Tuesday, when they faced World No. 18 Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, they were aware of their fate in the Olympics. Satwik and Chirag knew that they had no chance of making it to the knockout stage even if they beat the British pair.
"We knew the moment Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin (TPE) won, we didn't stand a chance. They won in two games and we won in three. It is quite sad. But unfortunately, even after winning two matches in the group, we didn't go through. But that is badminton and we have to live with it," Chirag Shetty told Badminton World Federation's (BWF) website after their final match.
Bouncing back from Monday's heartbreaking defeat, Satwik and Chirag have put up a superlative performance to get the better of Ben and Sean. But before they could finish the match, they were knocked out of Tokyo 2020.
Five minutes before their match against the Great Britain pair, third seeds Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Taipei stunned the experienced Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia 21-18, 15-21, 21-17 which affected the Indians chances of making it to the quarters as the match went down to three games.
The fact that had the Chinese Taipei pair won the match in two games, the Indians would have made it into the next round. But the luck was not in their favour. In Group A, the Indonesian pair won five games and lost two, the Chinese Taipei pair won five games and lost three whereas India won four games and lost three. Indonesia booked the pole position, while Chinese Taipei and India finished second and third on the points table. Only the top two will qualify for the knockout.
No doubt it was disheartening to see Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty making exit from the Olympics even after producing good results, but former national champion Vimal Kumar is all praise of the duo and optimistic of them giving India so many international titles in coming years.
"We can take solace from the fact that they really put up a good performance in the Games as their group was the toughest. This pair will fetch us many laurels in the coming years and that's a good sign for our standards improving in paired events," stated the Bengaluru based coach.
Disappointed with Sai Praneeth - Vimal Kumar
With the men's doubles pair's exit, India now has PV Sindhu and B Sai Praneeth remain in the ongoing Olympic Games in women's and men's singles.
However, the former national chief coach is disappointed with Sai Praneeth's defeat in his first match against lower-ranked World No. 46 Misha Zilberman. And Kumar does not see the shuttler progressing to the quarterfinal any longer.
"It is disappointing to see him losing to a shuttler who is ranked near 50. Now Sai Praneeth is near the exit. His next opponent Mark Caljouw has won his last match with ease against Zilberman. So, it will not be easy for the Indian shuttler as his confidence will be low. I think Praneeth will not be able to progress to the knockout stage," said Vimal Kumar.
Talking about Sindhu's chances of winning a medal in Tokyo 2020, he kept his finger crossed. Reigning world champion Sindhu blew away Israel's Ksenia Polikarpova 21-7, 21-10 in her first match. Now, she is up against Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi on Wednesday.
"Sindhu has had an easy outing in her first match. She won it comfortably. Next match will be a tough one as she is up against experienced Cheung Ngan Yi. But I think Sindhu will beat her easily and progress to the next round. It will be interesting to see how she performs in the knockout stages. I do not want to predict anything about medals now. It's risky," observed the 1992 Olympian.