Who’s that player? That’s the first question that most people asked each other in the Delhi crowd while witnessing the PBL mixed doubles tie on Thursday featuring, Andhra Pradesh’s Satwik Rankireddy. His unbelievable pace and agility was there for all to witness. Satwik’s celebratory gesture evokes more interest: he likes to do a Bolt.
Like the sprinter, the 17-year-old also seemed to be in a hurry. Partnering Hong Kong’s Hoi Wah Chu, the Hyderabad Hunters’ player ensured his team clinched the PBL semifinal spot with a 11-3, 11- 4 victory. Carolina Marin later sealed the deal in her trump match against Nitchaon Jindapol. Satwik and his partner were against the more experienced Delhi’s doubles pairing of Jwala and Ivanov. But the inexperience rarely showed as they stomped over the Delhi pairing. The tall, well-built youngster likes to play from the back. His jump-smash shots are not easy to handle. Give him space and he will go at you with the accuracy of an archer. He literally smashed his way to victory against Jwala and Ivanov. His quick hands and agile movements often caught his opponents off guard.
“It’s just that I like to play at the back. I can control the pace of the game much better from there.” He also has a very peculiar way of dealing with the low shots aimed at him. Rather than stretching and bending over on one knee, he prefers to crouch. It almost appears as if he is ducking to avoid the shuttle. He has mastered his unorthodox style.
“See, if you bend the conventional way, you sort of get into a defensive stance. But my style gives me more options. I feel I have more control with this technique,” Satwik explains. Satwik, who hails from Amalapuran district, honed his skills under his father, a former state-level player. To reach the next level, Satwik’s parents decided to hand over the raw talent to P Gopichand in 2002. Satwik, who initially started off as a singles player, devotes all his attention to doubles. “There are not many doubles specialists and I like playing doubles,” was his simple reply to why he took up doubles.
Satwik is man of few words. It’s perhaps even more tiring to strike a conversation with him than engaging in an intense rally. But he takes time to open up, feels his 19-year-old national partner Chirag Shetty. “He is very reserved. He doesn’t like to talk much with anyone. But once he gets pally with you, you will see a completely different side of him,” Chirag says.
Chirag and Satwik belong to a rare breed of Indian badminton players — doubles specialists. Chirag and Satwik are quickly progressing, showing a lot of promise. They began their doubles campaign last year with a ranking of around 300 and have managed to end 2016 on 68. Chirag and Satwik first came to the fore after winning three titles in December in as many weeks: India International Series in Hyderabad and Tata Open International Challenge in Mumbai and the Bangladesh International tournament.
Meanwhile, champions Delhi Acers, who have had a terrible PBL campaign, ended their season finishing last in the six-team tournament. Denmark’s Jorgensen was the only Delhi player who won on Thursday. He beat Rajiv Ouseph 11-5, 11-7. Marin also played a crucial role for Hyderabad. Leading 7-1 in the first game, she had to eventually fight tooth and nail to win the first game 15-14, she sealed the next (11-4) with ease.
Saina-Sindhu clash on the cards
Awadhe Warriors’ Saina Nehwal and Chennai Smashers PV Sindhu will face off in the singles tie during at the semifinals in the Capital. Mumbai Rockets will take on Hyderbad Hunters in the other final fixture which will give Marin and opportunity to to avenge her PBL defeat against Sung Ji-hyun.