India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when they gave world No. 2 China’s Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen their marching orders in the men’s doubles at the TOYOTA Thailand Open 2019.
In their first Super 500 final, Shetty and Rankireddy – ranked No. 16 in the world – needed a little over an hour to outclass the 2018 world champions from China 21-19 18-21 21-18.
Despite a slow start to the year for the Indian pair, with Rankireddy taking the first few months to heal from a chest bone injury, the Indian pair were on top of their game. There seemed to be no evidence of a weak arm as Rankireddy kept up a relentless array of smashes that had the Chinese scrambling.
Rankireddy said: “I was not playing like usual but I kept telling myself that it’s just one more match, one more match. I was so calm and whenever I got a chance, I wanted to finish the shot. I could see that they didn’t want to lift the shuttle for me.”
Recovering from his initial surprise and speechlessness after the win, Shetty said: “I can’t believe that we’ve just beaten the current world champs. They are really good attacking players so our plan was to keep the shuttle low.
“We varied our shots. We played a few flat shots but then they rushed to the net so we decided that Satwik would play a few hard smashes and I would play some soft shots down to the net. Their defence is usually very good too but I think at their height, it looked like they were struggling to come forward low at the net.”
Liu had only praise for his opponents: “They were more than we expected. They were calm and in control. In stressed situations, they managed to pull through. They are a big potential threat for a long time.”
🇮🇳 Unseeded Rankireddy/Shetty leave Thailand as champions defeating world N.2s Li/Liu #HSBCBWFbadminton #HSBCRaceToGuangzhou pic.twitter.com/Bepr1X7Ypo
— BWF (@bwfmedia) August 4, 2019
This mantra of remaining calm and confident has taken Rankireddy/Shetty through the last few days but their success may not have been possible without a change in their training since coming under the tutelage of coach Flandy Limpele of Indonesia.
“Before Coach Flandy, we were doing a lot of on-court training but he put us through a lot of physical training and running. That’s why even though we’ve had a long week, we’re not tired today,” said Shetty.
Another Chinese pair had to settle for second, this time in the women’s doubles when Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto defeated Du Yue/Li Yin Hui 21-19 14-21 21-13.
It was another long match that had both pairs duelling for 84 minutes and a rally that went for 87 shots before the Chinese pair succumbed.
“I think we rushed in some parts and that resulted in points lost. The last few days of long matches are not so much a physical problem but I do feel mental fatigue. Every tournament is a new experience and we learn new things each time which we can use to improve further,” said Du.
“We got through the first game well but then in the second I got a bit tired and just couldn’t run fast enough. The Chinese players are really fast so I had to concentrate hard,” said Tanaka.
China’s Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping made up for their teammates’ losses when they took out Japan’s Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino 24-22 23-21.
Japan’s on-court uncertainties were later explained by Watanabe: “It was difficult to find any kind of advantage over our opponents. We usually apply our strategy and then use the on-court and playing conditions to take advantage of the game but no matter what we did, they came back stronger.”
Higashino who has been nursing an ankle injury sustained in April this year said: “I don’t think my injury has healed 100 per cent. After the first few days here, I did feel better but I was afraid to move very fast.”
“We could not have ever imagined this. When I was young I used to watch Ko Sung Hyun and think that I have to play like him. Then in the semifinal third game I thought to myself that I am now playing him and that I have to be alert. Then when playing the world champions today I told myself to be free, no pressure.” – Rankireddy, on his performance in Thailand.