India’s top men's doubles badminton pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been nominated for the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) Most Improved Player of the Year award for the 2019 season. Interestingly, they were nominated in the same category last year as well but the award went to Japanese pair Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara.
Satwik and Chirag have been in incredible form this year. Currently ranked 13th in the world, the duo started the year in the 16th place before breaking into the top-10. They even reached a career-high ranking of 7th in November, thanks to their superlative performances in back to back tournaments.
If 2018 was the year where the young Indian pair started making a mark in the international circuit, 2019 was the year where they took their game to the next level. From winning their first-ever major title at the Thailand Open Super 500 to reaching the finals of French Open Super 750 and the semifinals of the China Open Super 750, they ticked all the right boxes.
In the 14 tournaments they took part in this year, Satwik and Chirag have lost before the quarterfinal stage seven times. But they made it to the last eight twice, went to the last four twice, reached one final and claimed two titles. However, what was more eye-catching was the opponents they took down. Reigning World Champions, former Olympic Champions — they took down one and all this season.
It should be noted that Satwik, 19, and Chirag, 22, are the only Indians other than para-shuttler Pramod Bhagat nominated in BWF’s annual Player of the Year awards, which will be presented during BWF World Tour Finals. In total, there are six award categories in which the BWF Most Improved Player of the Year award is given to recognise outstanding advances in performance across all players and pairs and is selected at the discretion of the governing body’s Awards Commission.
Apart from Satwik and Chirag, others who have been nominated for this award are Michelle Li, Kim So Yeong-Kong Hee Yong, and Praveen Jordan-Melati Daeva Oktavianti.