Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty aim to qualify for BWF World Tour Finals post French Open win
After winning French Open 2022|
The main factors influencing Indian shuttler Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty's incredible season are complete clarity on goals, regular mental checks, and taking breaks from the sport. The duo became the first Indian pair to win the French Open Super 750 championship on Sunday.
The 22-year-old from Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh, said that having a well-thought-out strategy and using a do-or-die mentality to accomplish particular objectives allowed them to enjoy the game and succeed. "In 2019, I was playing every tournament, there was no break. I was also playing both men's and mixed doubles. It was like there is always another tournament, so even if we lose it is okay, but now it is do or die. We want to win whichever tournament we are playing," Satwik told PTI.
"So we are not targeting every tournament, that is something which has changed. We are not playing like robots, we have a proper plan. We know we have to hit this mark, and if we are achieving our goal, then we are done for the year. "
"We are pushing ourselves more than 100 per cent in practice. We are focussing mentally a lot on the tournaments. So it's like go, have a podium finish, come back home, take a break and then set fresh goals, so trying to make it a good habit."
In addition to winning two World Tour titles in 2022—the India Open Super 500 and the French Open Super 750—Satwik and Chirag also won the gold at the Commonwealth Games, served as the backbone of India's historic Thomas Cup victory, and earned their first-ever bronze medal at the World Championships.
"I prepared mentally a lot. We knew we have to play in the Commonwealth Games. We won, but we are not satisfied, because we know we have the world championships," says Satwik, who is currently competing at the Hylo Open in Germany.
"So prepared our mind in such a way that we have these two big events, so we have to push ourselves, and in the process, even if we get injured, it is fine, we have all year to recover. The process has helped us to enjoy playing these tournaments. In Thomas Cup, we were dancing all the time. So you want that win again and again. Once you are in that race, you push again and again to get that victory."
Their prospects of making it to the BWF World Tour Final have improved since winning the French Open, as seen by their four-place climb to position 12 in the HSBC Race To Guangzhou standings. Satwik and Chirag will need to perform exceptionally in Germany and Australia, as only the top eight will advance to the season-ending competition.
"The win did help in our ranking for the Race to Guanzhou but we still are 8000-9000 points behind the top eight. Our qualification depends on a lot of other factors. We obviously have to play the finals in Hylo and Australia Open, but the top players also have to lose early," he said.
"We couldn't play seven-eight major events due to injury. After the Thomas and Uber Cup, I had a side strain so we missed the Thailand Open and two events in Indonesia, Malaysia Masters, then Singapore Open, and also one in Japan after the world championships.”
"So if we could have played even the first round it would have got us some ranking points." In order to transition from defence to attack during the rallies, according to Satwik, they still need to practise. "Being an attacking player is no more an advantage as people read you. In France, shuttles were fast, so it was an advantage because we know how to create that attack. But the main problem is when we are in defence, we just keep retrieving, we are trying to solve it. “
"Keeping it simple is the key, not thinking much and getting the right length while lifting the shuttle is important, so that opponent can't play the hard smash. We have been practising lifting and we got a lot of points with our defence this time too, so we're progressing well in our defence as well."
For the majority of the best players, the Indian duo has proven to be a challenge, but two couples — Malaysia's Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik and Indonesia's Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo — have shown they can be difficult opponents.
"It has become more of a mental thing. We are not enjoying our game against them. In the world championships, we played 80 per cent of our game, that's why we came close. They are not taking us as a danger and we have to break that. Once we do that, it will change things, it is a matter of time."
"We are on that borderline. It is about confidence. We have to open up the court when we play against these pairs, hopefully, we will break it at the right time," he signed off.