Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty avenged their Commonwealth Games final loss to Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge, striding into the second round of the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2018 with a calm performance at a critical phase.
The Indian Men’s Doubles duo, ranked No.25, had fallen to the Olympic bronze medallists from England (No.23) in the title round of the Commonwealth Games in straight games. Four disappointing tournaments followed, with the Indians winning just one of five matches.
Today, however, Rankireddy and Shetty (featured image) turned it around with a well-paced game that helped them edge the England duo in 80 minutes: 21-19 12-21 21-19.
Langridge and Ellis did well to prevent Rankireddy from unleashing his powerful smash for the most part. It was a game of push and placement, and the going was heavy. Langridge and Ellis recovered from a 2-7 deficit in the third and things were level pegging until 16. It was Shetty who stepped on the gas at the right moment, breaking the deadlock with a crosscourt smash and then firing two more winners. His partner nearly gave things away by netting a serve, but Shetty once again sprang to the rescue by darting forward for a net winner to set up the win for the Indians. Their reward is a second round appointment with eighth seeds Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (Denmark).
“The four tournaments we played before the World Championships – the first three were quite bad for us,” said Shetty. “We couldn’t cope with the tournament pressure. So we’re happy with this win. It was sort of a revenge win for us as we lost the Commonwealth Games final to them. Our coach asked us to play our natural game, and to focus on the first three-four strokes. A big load is off our shoulders. If we play our natural game, we can beat anybody.”
There was another significant result in Men’s Doubles, with Scotland’s Adam Hall and Alexander Dunn, ranked No.58, surprising No.20 pair Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han of Chinese Taipei in the bottom quarter, 12-21 21-17 21-19.
The Scots recovered from 5-10 and 8-12 down in the third to catch up with their opponents at 14, and from there it was neck-and-neck until they surged ahead at the death.
“It was a surprise, I guess,” said a delighted Hall. “Actually, we didn’t do too much preparation. We just came relaxed and played our game.”
Dunn, who had a wrist injury in his playing arm before the event, said they had had very little preparation before arriving for the Worlds.
“I had a wrist injury, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to play. I had a couple of weeks’ rest, and we hit once or twice a week before coming. So there were no preparations.”
In Women’s Singles, two-time World champion Carolina Marin cantered to a sixth straight victory over Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan to enter the third round. Marin, who had a 5-0 record over the Thai, made it 6-0 with the 21-9 21-8 result which took her just 32 minutes.
“At the Worlds, it’s always difficult to play any player as it’s the most important tournament of the year. I feel confident about myself right now, as I’ve been preparing for the last two months and I feel ready. The last three weeks have been good practice. I played well today, so we have to analyse today’s game and prepare for the next. Anything can happen here, I’m looking forward to doing well on court as I like to play in China,” said Marin.
The Olympic champion reckoned the pressure was off her as World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying was the favourite: “Tai Tzu Ying is doing really well, everyone knows she’s the best in the world now. But you know, in this kind of tournament anything can happen. For a long time now, I don’t feel any pressure from the outside. It’s more about the pressure I put on myself. I’m not the favourite to win, but of course I will fight to win.”
Marin also revealed that she has lately started learning Chinese to connect with her fans.
“I just did some four classes. I would like to talk in Chinese. It’s totally different from Spanish, but I would like to learn more about Chinese culture. It’s something I wanted a long time ago, but I didn’t have time. Now I’m trying to make some time every week. I want to feel like I’m close to my fans.”
In the top quarter, No.1 seed Tai Tzu Ying also enjoyed a one-sided result, over Australia’s Wendy Chen (21-10 21-16). Home hope He Bingjiao, who won the Youth Olympic Games in this city in 2014, was just as untroubled by Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin (21-11 21-17).
In Mixed Doubles, Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai needed just 38 minutes to shut out Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing, 21-12 21-15. The Thais will next face fourth seeds Mathias Christiansen/Christinna Pedersen, who were on court for just 15 minutes today as their opponents Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah retired with Lee nursing an injured right ankle.
Fifth seeds Zhang Nan/Li Yinhui faced stiff resistance from Germany’s Peter Kasbauer/Olga Konon before pulling through at 21-10 25-23 and setting up a clash with Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi-Lin/Lee Chia Hsin.
Kasbauer and Konon had their chances to take the match to a third game, but Zhang and Li stood firm under pressure and converted their second match point to leave the Germans ruing their missed opportunities.