HYDERABAD: Enemies turned friends. And friends into conquerors. These lines are apt to describe the young doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. Back in the city after their Thailand Open triumph on Sunday, which made them the first Indian pair to clinch a BWF World Tour Super 500 tournament, in a chat with Express, they reflected upon the role played by their former coach Tan Kim Her in turning them into the biggest badminton hopes for the country.
In Satwik’s words, the two were like ‘enemies’ until Tan stitched the pair together soon after being appointed India’s doubles coach in September 2015.
“We had different partners. We had played against each other and did not like each other at all. So when Tan brought us together, it was quite weird. Chirag is from a big city (Mumbai), I am from a small town in Andhra Pradesh.
"There was a big communication gap. Tan brought in the comfort that is required for partners to gel together. He taught us how to communicate with each other,” Satwik told TNIE on Monday.
Asked about Tan’s contribution, Chirag said: “Only two months into our partnership, Tan told us that in two years would be in the top-30. I didn’t believe it, but it happened.
"I would have been content just playing these top-level tournaments. To win is something that I am still to come to terms with. All credit goes to Tan coach. He was compassionate and paid special attention to us.”
Unlike most of the success stories related to Indian badminton, this is different, as it cannot only be attributed to the hub of the sport in the country: the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy. Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth were ‘made’ at the academy, but not this history-making pair. Chirag used to practise in his hometown and only came to the academy because he was included in the national camp after getting spotted by the Malaysian coach in December 2015. He is still not officially a part of the academy, but the national camp. His partner, however, has been there since 2014 and was groomed there itself.
In the years that followed, they went from strength to strength, achieving one impressive result after the other, and climbing the rankings ladder swiftly. They had started giving scares to top players last season itself when they reached the semifinals of the French Open (BWF World Tour Super 750). The title in Bangkok sees them breach the top-10 of the BWF world rankings for the first time.
Though Tan has left India to guide the Japanese contingent, his presence can still be felt when the players say whom they credit their success to. “Tan coach,” Satwik says with a smile.
Duo likely to skip Open
The Hyderabad Open (Tour Super 100) will begin at Gachibowli Indoor Stadium from Tuesday. Satwik and Chirag, defending champions, are likely to skip it to concentrate on the World Championships to be played in Switzerland from August 19.