After Birmingham CWG gold, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty assure India a maiden men’s doubles medal at the World Championships by stunning local favourites and defending champions Hoki and Kobayashi of Japan
India’s doubles pair of Chirag Shetty (left) and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy celebrate after winning their quarter-final against Japan’s Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi in Tokyo yesterday. Pic/AP, PTI
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty on Friday became the first Indian pair to win a medal in the men’s doubles competition at the World Championships, but HS Prannoy’s impressive run ended in agony as he went down narrowly in the men’s singles quarter-finals here. Satwik and Chirag, the World No.7 pair, who claimed the Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this month, stunned local favourites and defending champions Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi 24-22, 15-21, 21-14 in an hour and 15 minutes to claim its maiden medal at the prestigious tournament.
It is India’s second World Championships medal in the doubles event with women’s pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa claiming a bronze in 2011. Overall, it’s India’s 13th medal at the showpiece with PV Sindhu winning five, including a gold in 2019, and Saina Nehwal (silver and bronze) claiming two. Kidambi Srikanth (silver), Lakshya Sen (bronze), B Sai Praneeth (bronze) and Prakash Padukone (bronze) were the other medallists.
Heartbreak for Prannoy
It could have been double delight for India, but China’s Zhao Jun Peng had other plans as he broke Indian hearts with a 19-21, 21-6, 21-18 win over former World No.8 Prannoy, who went down on one knee with his head hanging in disappointment after the gut-wrenching loss.
HS Prannoy returns to China’s Zhao Jun Peng during his World Championships quarter-final in Tokyo yesterday. Pic/AFP
Earlier, MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila’s fine run also ended after the Indian pair lost 8-21 14-21 to three-time champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan in another men’s doubles quarter-finals.
Having assured themselves of at least a bronze, Satwik and Chirag will now face the sixth seeded Malaysian pair of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the semi-finals. Satwik and Chirag came out with a lot of intent as they dominated the proceedings early on to establish a lead of 12-5 in the first game, but the Japanese pair reeled off seven points on the trot to eke out a 16-14 advantage.
However, the Indian duo fought tooth and nail to ensure it had the advantage after the opening game. Takuro and Yugo made a strong comeback in the second game after breaking off at 9-9 following a tight battle. With the match hanging in balance, the Indian pair once again found its bearings as the two strengthened their defence and mounted an attack to lead 11-5 at the interval.
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Satwik and Chirag then extended the lead to 14-8 before they were called for a fault for touching the net during a return. The duo lost the point, but soon managed to put that behind, leading 16-9.
Yugo produced some sensational shots, including a powerful smash and a cross court return, to keep the Japanese duo’s chances alive with three points. Two shots going wide from the Japanese pair put India a couple of points away from the win at 19-13. The Indians then grabbed seven match points with another superb return which their opponents failed to negotiate. A tad nervous, Satwik faltered on his serve, but Yugo sent the shuttle to the net as Chirag let out a cry in celebration.
Early advantage lost
In the men’s singles, Prannoy had raised hopes of a medal after he outwitted two-time former champion Kento Momota and compatriot and last year’s bronze medallist Lakshya Sen. But it wasn’t to be as the 30-year-old squandered an opening game advantage and a slender 11-10 lead in the decider to again sign off at the quarters, following his last eight finish in Spain in 2021.
The second game was a forgettable affair as Prannoy looked out of sort. The Chinese took a massive 11-1 lead at the interval as Prannoy decided to conserve his energy. In the decider, Prannoy looked erratic but managed to keep himself in contention with a slender one-point advantage at the interval. However, errors crept in his game as Zhao eked out a 15-12 lead before moving to 18-13. A 43-shot rally ended with Zhao unleashing a smash as the Chinese soon grabbed three match points. Prannoy saved one with a backhand whip, before the Chinese produced another winner to realise his dream.
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