Malaysia Open: Leading 10-3 in decider, Satwik-Chirag lose to China’s World No 1 pair in

It is believed in some quarters that the Chinese badminton decision-makers, a few years back, set about finding men’s doubles talent that could be moulded along the lines and game style of Indonesia’s legendary pair – ‘The Minions’.

It was the hustlers with wicked serving skills, speed and shot variations who masterfully altered every moment and mood each second of rallies and aced unbalanced reflex returns, that the Chinese coaches went sniffing after. In Liang Weikeng and Wang Chang, they found their skill-wielders to play the busy game. Not quite replicas, but in their evolution, Liang-Wang were on the path to the Gideon-Sukamuljo model.

The matchup with these Chinese is growing into one right headache for Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, though the score is just 2-4 unlike the 0-11 against the Minions. Unfortunately, it’s cost the Indians two finals and progress at an All England last few years.

On their first finals Sunday of 2024 at Malaysian Open, the Indian World No 2 were beaten 9-21, 21-18, 21-17 by the Chinese World No 1s. Satwik-Chirag led 10-3 in the decider. There’s two things you can trust the Indian aces with – they start a rally to win in the first 1-2-3 shots. And they finish a match with the modern-day cliche, a monster mentality. Carving their comeback from 9-3 down in the decider, the Chinese though, showed up the Indians at both the start of each rally and at the finish of the match. Nervousness gnawed at the Indians and finally gobbled them.

The match started with a 21-9 blitz by the Indians from the helpful side of the court with Satwik leading with a 466 kph monster smash at 4-0. Wang looked dazed as he overshot his straight returns with fast pushes that went long. The Indians picked quick points, not allowing the Chinese serve to settle. So completely disoriented was Wang, who marshals their net, that the Indians were stubbing rallies swiftly pocketing the opener in 13 minutes.

It didn’t make the Indians complacent, as they had played similar matches at Malaysia and All England earlier. And knew the countering was underway as they trailed 8-11 in the second. Wang had been erring into the net, and Satwik had been going after him, but surely the Chinese would jolt awake.

The second set was from the unhelpful side, but it was Wang’s recovery from his funk that truly turned the tables. He had been tentative right upto 15-12, but at that juncture, he swivelled a fantastic body defense parry and won a couple of fast exchanges, and his confidence and equilibrium were restored.

Still, the Indians and Chirag especially looked in the mood to wrap this up soon like in the semi-final. These Chinese don’t flake away like a croissant or like the Koreans or Malaysians though. Behind their easy smiles is steel and a bit of spite when they play the Indians who defeated them at the Asian Games in front of their home crowd. Satwik who had been doing the bashing without quite being 100 percent in it, had gathered a few service and return errors by now. At 18-19 he served into the net. The Chinese didn’t need asking twice. The Indians were dragged into the decider.

Mixing serves

Back to the advantageous side, the Indians led 10-3 before things fell apart. The trouble with being so good at the early 1-2-3 shots in a rally is, if it does get extended, the Indians are forced to defend. Wang, now restored to his creative perch, started mixing up the serves, as Liang employed the tumble serve and toggled with a flick one.
These are high quality openings when the Chinese play, and the Indians couldn’t snap shut the returns.

The big Indian attack couldn’t pulverize either, as the Chinese played blocks from the mid court and varied the short dips instead of flat pushes, and Wang found the length on his drives which stopped whistling long and stayed within bounds. Chirag was still lethal, but Satwik was coming undone. “This wasn’t our 100 percent game. There’s still something left off court, I felt it inside me. Not satisfied enough. In few other tournaments I used to be happy that I gave my 100 percent. But here I felt we played only 60 to 70 percent,” was how Satwik put it to BWF.

But pertinently, when Chirag couldn’t be hassled, they pressured Satwik who was in bombastic mode. Liang was shaving pace off the shuttle, and began teasing tame lifts out of Satwik which Wang gleefully pulped to smashes. These were rushed defensive lifts lacking depth or height and duly punished

All four serves came under pressure, and errors occurred, but at 15-17, Satwik had another poor one, though there was chaos all around as the Chinese leapt for the same shuttle a point earlier, but resolved the confusion with a smile. Then Liang served into the net. But at 16-18, the Chinese brought out the ‘Minion’ reflexes and wild racquet juts that magically connected and Liang returned everything thrown at him. Satwik just couldn’t refrain from lifting next and the Chinese had their prey trapped and cooked, showing better nerves at the end.

“We thought we should keep at least 4-5 point lead. Even if it went 2-3 points here and there, no need to panic. Let’s play our game. Don’t think about lead. Because same thing happened yesterday. Here they came back. 10-3 down, they played freely. One point and it could’ve been 11-3. But next it became 10-7. When we started again, it was 12-all. Last Malaysia Open and All England, same situation. Happy way we played. But disappointed we couldn’t keep our nerves in control. We took much more pressure than them. Towards end, we made silly mistakes. But they kept on pressing us, pressing us. Hopefully next time we can take revenge,” Satwik said.

The opportunity should be up if both make finals at Delhi, the next stop for international badminton bandwagon. “We are more hungry for next week. In front of Indian crowd,” Satwik promised.

This article was originally published by a . Read the Original article here. .