Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy are used to flying under the radar. In an environment where singles exponents hog the lion’s share of the limelight, the two are not even the top men’s doubles pair in the country.
While all the attention has been on the likes of PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth, the duo quietly became the only Indian combination to make the last-four stage of the tournament.
“It’s nothing unusual. Even in other sports such as tennis, it is the singles players who are in focus. We have no problem with that,” Reddy says nonchalantly.
As many as four Indian doubles teams had entered the quarterfinals. Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy made a match of it in the second game against top seeded Indonesian pair of Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu, before going down 21-10, 21-18. The Indian girls had a sizeable lead in the early stages of the second stanza but their opponents kept chipping at it and went ahead when it really mattered.
The other Indian women’s doubles combination of Aparna Balan and KP Sruthi were no match for second seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, with the Thais running out 21-18, 21-11 winners in well under half an hour.
Attri and Reddy took the court knowing that one Indian pair will make it to the weekend, and they wasted little time in dispatching the scratch team of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Shivam Sharma 21-10, 21-12.
The two came together in 2013 but have yet to set the stage on fire. As such, making the semifinals of a Super 500 tournament is a big deal for them. And they can hope to go at least one stage further as their opponents on Saturday, Ricky Karandasuwardi and Angga Pratama of Indonesia are ranked as low as No.91 in the world.
At No.28, Attri and Reddy are the second-best pair in the country after Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (ranked 23), who have been out of action since the Premier Badminton League at the start of the year due to the latter’s shoulder injury.
“There is a lot of healthy rivalry between the two pairs. They are much younger and keep pushing us to get better,” says Attri, who at 26, is a year younger than his partner.
The depleted field and the early ouster of second seeds Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong of Malaysia has opened the draw up for the Indians, but they have also held up their end of the bargain. It’s the No. 2 seeds’ conquerors that Attri and Reddy will face in the semi-finals. “We can’t take the match lightly at all. They have been ranked much higher in the past,” Attri says.
Playing together for such a long time has meant that the two have developed a near telepathic understanding.
“Our coordination and understanding have got better over the years and we instinctively know who has to go for which shuttle,” Reddy says. It is the taller Reddy who is more often at the net with the shorter and stockier Attri manning the backcourt as “I’ve the bigger smash.”
With the Olympic qualification cycle beginning shortly, all players are in the process of finalising their tournament schedules. Attri and Reddy went to Rio three years ago, as the first men’s doubles team from India to make the cut, but were bounced out in the group stage winning just one of three matches. “We are a much better team now with a lot more experience and hope to give a much account this time. We have also set a goal of entering the top 10 in rankings. Maybe then we will get a little more recognition,” Reddy adds.