Thailand Open: Indian men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty defeated South Korean pair of Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae 19-21, 21-16, 21-14 to move into the second round.

Indian men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty cruised into the second round of the ongoing Thailand Open on Wednesday. The world number 10 Indian pair exceeded South Korean pair of Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae 19-21, 21-16, 21-14 in the first round of the tournament.

After losing a hard-fought first game, the Indian duo came out all guns blazing and took 3 consecutive points in the early minutes of the second match. Shetty and Reddy held the lead throughout the game and clinched it 21-16.

“When we started playing badminton we used to idolise them, we used to love their game. We’ve played them once before, and we’ve played them in the Premier Badminton League as well. Beating them today, it feels really good, because we’re playing after 11 months, and we’re happy to be back,” said Shetty.

As a frontcourt player himself, Shetty has observed Lee closely.

“Lee Yong Dae at the net is really good, one of the best. Although he’s not at his prime right now, he’s pretty lethal. Like at last year’s Malaysia Masters they won the title when nobody expected them to. You can’t write off such pairs.”
Still dangerous

Late in the match, with the Koreans trailing, Lee took time out for a medical break. Rankireddy said the Indians were wary of a sudden comeback.

“They’re experienced guys. Maybe he was taking time to calm himself. They’re very tricky, they know how to play at crucial moments. We’re playing after a long gap, we had to control ourselves. So in the first game, we were hurried and clumsy and didn’t have a plan, but second game we controlled ourselves.”

The Indians can be happy with their performance, for they got only two months’ training together last year after the pandemic disrupted the season. Rankireddy was home until September, while Shetty joined him at the national camp a month later. Rankireddy had also fallen ill with COVID-19 and that took him a month to recover.

“We’ve been practising together for the last two months,” said Rankireddy.

“We are doing well in practice; that hunger is there. We didn’t play well last year, so that spirit, that fire is there inside, and we’re heading into the Olympics, so we want to see what the other players have worked on during the last few months.”

Shetty was happy that despite restarting training comparatively late, they were still able to stay sharp against a dangerous pair.

“We started slow. We couldn’t get many points on our serve. But in the second and third we held the match and we were focussed.

Physically we may not be 100 per cent, but pretty much 90 per cent. We were worried about the match. Match fitness and practising for a year are different. Winning this has given us the confidence that we can get back to our best. Winning this match was really important.”

In another men’s doubles clash, Indian pair of Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun lost to the Malaysian pair of Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi 13-21, 21-8, 24-22 in the first round clash after putting up a great fight.

On Tuesday, India’s PV Sindhu had crashed out of the tournament after losing to Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in the first round.

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