Satwik, Chirag conquer their highest peak yet to create Indian badminton history

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty with their medals after winning the Indonesia Open. BAI Media

At the end of their breakthrough 2022 season, ESPN male athletes' of the year - Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty - were asked what some of their goals for 2023 were. There were the usual answers, but one of them was most noticeable - "We want to beat two very close friends of ours, to whom we have lost every time. [Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik (8-0) and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (11-0)] ...they even come into my dreams sometimes."

Halfway through the year, they have achieved this in some style.

The Indians beat reigning world champions Chia and Soh 21-17, 21-18 to win the Indonesia Open Super 1000 on Sunday - a significant title in a final that highlights Satwik and Chirag's evolution.


Lately, every time Satwik and Chirag accomplish a noteworthy milestone, it is a first in Indian badminton, doubles or otherwise.

At only 22 and 25 years of age, this is an incredible record to have.

Their latest achievement is the biggest one of their young career, yet.

To win a Super 1000 title - highest tier of titles on the BWF World Tour - is a huge achievement. To become the first Indians to win at this level, in their first ever attempt, is even more significant.

And to beat their nemeses who they've never won against - one that even appear in their nightmares in Satwik's words - in straight games with tactical and mental acumen, is the sweetest of cherries on top of their historic cake.

Satwik and Chirag are not new to firsts in Indian badminton, indeed there is a whole list. They are Thomas Cup, Commonwealth Games and more recently Asian champions. All huge achievements. But even in this impressive resume, the Indonesia Open Super 1000 stands out. For the tournament history, for the competition, for the pressure.

It's almost as if every time they reach a new height, they level up and go for a new high. A bit like high jump or pole vault, the target gets higher every time they leap over a new first. And Satwik and Chirag have been making these jumps effortless... almost expected.

"This has been an amazing week for us. We played amazing badminton today. We didn't have a good head-to-head record against them, so wanted to play one point at a time and it fetched the result for us," Satwik said after the win. "Winning in Indonesia is really special. One of our dream tournaments. When we were starting, it was about at least getting an entry to play at Istora. From there, to now winning it, it's been a long journey."

A BWF World Tour Title in the competitive men's doubles landscape is not an easy task, more so as an Indian where there is little pedigree of doubles. Ask the losing finalists Chia and Soh, reigning world champions and Olympic medallists but who are yet to win a tour title.

To do so on their first attempt in such a commanding manner is more proof of their progress.


If the thrilling semifinal was bout the Indians being mentality monsters, the final was won by the evolution of Satwik and Chirag.

The central conflict was winning against a pair they have never met before or a first ever BWF Tour title. There were nerves from both ends. But it was about who could control their emotion and shots better... a shortcoming for the Indians before, but now slowly becoming a strength.

The Malaysians started 3-0 in the final, but from then on it was all about the Indians. Once they recovered from the deficit and drew level, they did not allow the momentum to slip or the serve to go for more than a few points. They were confident and trusted their tactics of going for the quick, all-out attack points and getting the errors. They covered the court speedily, absorbing the attack and pressure with swift, powerful points. Even when they squandered fourth match points, they stayed calm and finished it in two.

"We played with conviction, we stuck to the game plan even though probably we didn't score well in the first few points. In the earlier eight matches against them, we would sort of hold ourselves back, but today we stuck to the plan. We felt they are humans, they are players, and they will also make mistakes. We stuck to the plan right till the end and never really gave them a chance to come back," Chirag said.

In their last meeting at Sudirman Cup last month, the Indian lost in straight sets but this time they learned from their errors and kept their foot on the pedal. It was impressive display against a pair who used to have an edge over them, showing just how far they have come.


The two Indians have not had the easiest start to the Olympic qualification cycle from May. They exited early in their last two tournaments, one as top seeds. They then got a stroke of luck after the Minions (Gideon and Sukamuljo), their first-round opponents withdrew. But they still had top seeds and world champions in their path. And Satwik and Chirag made the most of their chances.

"We'd become lazy, I'd say passive, we thought it's under control. But it wasn't under control. It was a wake-up call for us, the last two tournaments - to be alert, or be smashed in the first round itself. More than winning the tournament, beating them - you don't get it often. When we play next time we'll go all-in like this, so it's a confidence boost going ahead," Satwik was quoted as saying.

The chances will keep coming, as the Indians now will climb to a career-high of world No 3. Chances to come back from heartbreaks, chances to create more history. The way they are going about their business, Satwik and Chirag are sure to continue capitalising on these chances, ticking off more goals in their list, creating more history.