Absolute clarity about goals, frequent mental tune-ups, and taking time off from the game are the primary reasons behind Indian shuttler Satwiksairaj Rankireddy’s dream run this season alongside Chirag Shetty.
Satwik and Chirag on Sunday added another crown to their cabinet when they claimed the French Open Super 750 title, becoming the first Indian pair to achieve the feat.
The 22-year-old from Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh says a well-thought-out plan and adopting a do-or-die approach to achieve specific goals helped them to enjoy the game and attain success.
“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.”
Satwik and Chirag have been sensational in 2022 as they claimed two World tour titles — India Open Super 500 and French Open Super 750 — clinched the Commonwealth Games gold, anchored India’s epic Thomas Cup triumph and also bagged a maiden bronze 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.”
The French Open title has revived their chances of qualifying for the BWF World Tour Final as they jumped four places to the 12th position in the HSBC Race To Guangzhou rankings.
However, with only the top eight qualifying for the season-ending tournament, Satwik and Chirag will also have to put up a stellar show in Germany and Australia to make the cut.
“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.”
Satwik said they still need to work on how to switch from defence to attack during the rallies.
“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.”
While the Indian duo has proved to be a handful for most of the top players, two pairs — Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik and Indonesia’s Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo — have proved tough customers.
“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.