Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, India's top men's doubles team, appear to have accomplished a lot this year after winning an iconic Commonwealth Games doubles gold and a rare Badminton World Championships bronze. But, Mathias Boe, like the pair themselves, can't help but twitch a little.
While winning the men's doubles gold at the Commonwealth Games was a dream come true for the World No. 7 team of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, the missed opportunity to improve the medal colour from bronze at the World Championships in Tokyo after being fully prepared and deserving of it will linger somewhat.
"At the CWG, the English pair (Ben Lane and Sean Vendy) did the dirty work for us by taking out the Malaysians - Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, against whom we have been losing the last couple of times and it happened at the World Championships semi-finals too," India's doubles coach Mathias Boe, told The Bridge.
"We are happy that we could win a medal, that was always on the list but argh, can't say that we are 100% happy with the bronze," he continued.
"I hate losing and I hate losing on behalf of my players as well! What is sad is that we knew we could have played better and taken some of the opportunities against the Malaysians. The idea that we had such a good chance perhaps also played on Satwik/Chirag's mind."
Boe affirms, pleased with Satwik/Chirag for their constant performance this year, "The Malaysians were nervous after we won the first game but from the second, the momentum suddenly changed too and we started making little errors. But we can't deny we had a very good chance this time."
Although the Malaysian team of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik have a similar streak of never losing to the Indians, just as the Minions — Kevin Sukamuljo and Marcus Gideon — against whom Satwik/Chirag have yet to win, Boe thinks that this tendency may be outdated.
"I don't consider the Minions as a threat anymore, they are not the strongest currently. The Malaysians are good and the matches have always been close but until we get that first win over them and know that we can do it, it will inspire us to do better," Boe says.
Boe, who is already looking ahead, is more excited than anything about what is next. He says, "We have a couple of things to work on but soon, I believe, Satwik/Chirag will be winning titles and not just medals."
The pair that shone out and rose from the shadows of the previous pair, aside from Satwik and Chirag, is MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, whose performance at the World Championships was nothing shy of a dream. "Arjun and Dhruv were the underdogs in all the matches they played. They won three back-to-back high-level matches and it is the best I have seen them play, during my stint here."
"But it was also their first match and they didn't play well - they were shaky and rusty and getting used to conditions so we were able to play strategically very well and could outmanoeuvre them," Boe analysed.
"But the run at the World Championships should hopefully motivate Dhruv and Arjun further and they will listen to what I have to say more."
The Malaysian team of Thinaah Muralitharan and Pearly Tan was waiting for the women's doubles bronze medalists at the CWG, Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly. They faced the World No. 11 pair from Malaysia, who are significantly superior at this point, four times in 2022, but they lost each time. "But it was their first World Championships and with me and Arun Vishnu as coaches, they were also probably more nervous as they didn't want to let us down," Boe conveys.
"They made a lot of unforced errors even at the CWG against this duo, in matches that could have gone our way..."
"But it was a good learning curve for them all the same. Hopefully, this will make them work harder and get ready to challenge the stronger pairs soon," Boe says with steady optimism.