Sunday, June 18, 2023
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | RAPHAEL SACHETAT & MIKAEL ROPARS/BADMINTONPHOTO
In their first HSBC BWF World Tour Super 1000 final, it was time for Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty to come good against a pair that has had their number in eight previous meetings.
Having experienced their “lowest low” in crashing out of the first round of last week’s Singapore Open, Rankireddy and Shetty couldn’t have executed a more stunning turnaround, winning their first Super 1000 title, an unprecedented achievement for Indian doubles.
The reluctance to throw it all in against Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik had held them back in previous meetings, but today there was no hesitation. Neither in the fast and quick exchanges in the opening game, nor in challenging the world champions to break through their defence in the second, was there any trace of self-doubt.
“We played with a lot of conviction, we stuck to the gameplan,” said Shetty. “In the earlier eight matches against them, we’d held ourselves back. But we stuck with the plan and we knew they are humans, eventually they will make mistakes. So till the end we didn’t give them a chance. We didn’t need to hold ourselves back and play safe, which sort of becomes slow and they are good at capitalising on that, so we just went with the plan. We really needed this win.”
The Indians had promised to do a jig on court if they won, but it was a relatively toned-down celebration. They were uncharacteristically sombre, exuding a deep sense of satisfaction.
“It’s a happy performance after a bad month,” said Rankireddy. “We’d become lazy, I’d say passive, we thought it’s under control. But it wasn’t under control. It was a wake-up call for us, the last two tournaments – to be alert, or be smashed in the first round itself. More than winning the tournament, beating them – you don’t get it often. When we play next time we’ll go all-in like this, so it’s a confidence boost going ahead.
“Winning Indonesia was a dream; a lot of legends have played here. At the beginning the aim was to get an entry to play here. From there to winning this tournament has been a long journey, and I love the way we played today.”
As for Chia/Soh, the wait for a first World Tour title continues.
Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong won their third Super 1000 title this season with a comprehensive defeat of Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino.
Baek Ha Na/Lee So Hee took their first Super 1000 title as a pair, beating Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota in a reversal of their final at the Badminton Asia Championships.
In a battle between Olympic champions, Chen Yu Fei prevailed over a somewhat error-ridden Carolina Marin, 21-18 21-19 for her first Super 1000 title since her gold at Tokyo 2020.
Viktor Axelsen showed the layoff from a hamstring injury sustained in May hadn’t robbed him off his edge as he duly outgunned Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 21-14 21-13.
What They Said
“I respect Marin a lot. Even though she had two major injuries, her attack is powerful, she didn’t give up and is still training. This is something I can still learn.” – Chen Yu Fei
“I’m happy for sure, to play a final is always a good feeling, because you’ve won tough games against top players and this is what I had, a tough draw. Not really happy I couldn’t win, but I showed to myself and to everyone that if I keep working hard, and if I keep my focus in the right way, I’m in good shape.” – Carolina Marin
“We’re feeling wonderful, this is a perfect ending, to have won the last Indonesia Open in Istora, and all three Super 1000 tournaments so far this year, and especially as we didn’t play well in Singapore.” – Zheng Si Wei
“There was a big chance for me to perform well here. It wasn’t easy after the Singapore Open. I was tired, but I tried very hard to do my best.” – Anthony Sinisuka Ginting
“Great effort from me; it’s not easy to play against a full Istora Senayan, but it’s one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in my badminton career. The atmosphere was absolutely crazy, and to play against the local hero Anthony Ginting, an amazing experience. ” – Viktor Axelsen