Chirag Shetty has his priorities set, wants to end career with a room full of medals
Chirag Shetty, a star doubles player for India, aspires to retire with a room full of medals from major competitions. His "mantra" is to play his "best badminton," and the results will take care of themselves.
The gold medalists at the 2017 Commonwealth Games, Chirag and his partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, have been absolutely phenomenal this season, capturing titles at the Indonesia Open, Asia Championships, Swiss Open, and Korea Open. “As a pair, I would want to win all the tournaments that are there on the circuit. So, hopefully, a couple of years down the line when I retire, I want to have a room filled with all the big medals that badminton has to offer,” Chirag told PTI in an interview.
“I’m quite passionate about that, I want all the medals whether it is the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, the world tour finals, there are many tournaments that we still haven’t won, and I would want to win everything that badminton has to offer,” he said.
The second-ranked team is ready to play at this edition's championship extravaganza beginning on August 21 in Copenhagen, Denmark, after winning their first bronze medal at the most recent World Championships. “We are not looking at the result. We are just out there to play our best badminton, and I know for a fact that if we can play anywhere close to our best badminton, then we can beat any pair in the world."
“And even at the World Championships next week, I think that would be our main aim: take one match at a time and see how it goes."
“It doesn’t have to be the best, but even if it’s anywhere close to that, we can win each round, and I feel we do stand a chance to play deep into the tournament. Playing at our best or anywhere close to our best is our ultimate aim in each match.”
The 26-year-old from Mumbai believes that over the last year, consistency has been the biggest improvement, and that their pair's ability to swap positions from back to front on the court has become a key "weapon" for them.
“I think the front court game has definitely been quite good, and I’ve always been good at the net, and Satwik has always been good at the back."
“But lately, we’ve also been playing a game where Satwik is also at the net a lot of times, and I am at the backcourt, and that is also a setup which is not usual for both me and Satwik."
“That has definitely taken our opponents by surprise as well because they are always used to me playing at the front end, Satwik at the back. But with the dynamics changing, I think it’s definitely come as a weapon for both of us."
“But as they say, there’s always scope for improvement. It’s always a learning process, and we still have a long way to go.”
The Badminton Association of India (BAI) engaged 2012 London Olympics silver medalist Mathias Boe to coach Chirag and Satwik in preparation for the Tokyo Games in 2021, which significantly raised their stock prices.
“Mathias (Boe) coming in has been beneficial. Working with him for the past one year and a half has been good for both me and Satwik. What has been working well for us this year is that we’ve been a lot more consistent,” he said.
“I think since Thomas Cup last year, we’ve become a lot more consistent.
“Earlier, there have been instances where we’ve lost in the very first round like in Thailand and Singapore. But one of the major things that has changed is consistency and belief in ourselves.” Chirag and Satwik quickly rose to the second spot in the global rankings as a result of their on-court success.
The focus, according to Chirag, is still on winning major competitions, not climbing the rankings. “At the start of the year, our main aim was to enter the top three in the world, which we’ve achieved midway through the year, but my aim has always been to win tournaments, ranking eventually follows,” Chirag said.
“I would be happy being a world champion than becoming a world number one any day, or become an Olympic champion and be a world number 50, it doesn’t matter."
“What matters for me is to win at big events. No doubt world number one feels good, obviously, the rank will signify that I am quite consistent on tour and I am one of the best players in the world."
“But for both me and Satwik, I would say winning tournaments is a whole lot more important than being ranked number one in the world.”
Despite winning two out of three games, Chirag and Sarwik were devastated to learn that they did not advance to the Tokyo Olympics' knockout rounds.
While the 2024 Paris Olympics remain the long-term objective, according to Chirag, they are now concentrating on short-term objectives.
“Yeah, obviously winning an Olympic medal is our ultimate goal, and it’s definitely the long-term target, but it’s still a year to go, and it’s always in the back of our mind,” he said.
“But both me and Satwik, we usually set short-term targets, and I think World Championships and Asian Games would be the next set of tournaments that we want to play good at. That would be our focus for now.”