Updated: March 4, 2021 1:21:45 pm
It is supposed to be the start of their fairy tale season, heading into the Olympics. But Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty did a fair few double takes, as their opener at the Super 300 Swiss Open turned into a bit of a scary tale.
The second seeded Indian pair would win 21-18, 19-21, 21-16 against brothers Christopher and Matthew Grimley eventually. But not before being thoroughly confused by the Scottish identical twins.
“It was kind of different. We were playing twins for the very first time,” Chirag said, befuddled, after the 63-minute match. “You don’t come across identical twins that often. It got difficult because you don’t really know who’s really the one playing at the front court and whose back.”
Tennis has had the world-beating Bryan twins, but Bob was a lefty, Mike played right-handed. Also Bob, who stands at 6’4” is an inch taller than Mike, and it might not have necessarily confused opponents on a larger tennis court beyond the first few years.
For Chirag and Satwik though, playing after almost a month and adjusting to bolting out of the bio secure bubble suddenly, it was optical stupefaction because most doubles plans rely on which of the two opponents’ strength is on the forecourt, and who plays better from the back. Entire strategies hinge on that.
“Eventually when playing any partnership, you get to know who’s good at net, who plays well at the wing. But since both of look the same you couldn’t pick out who’s playing at back and who at the net!” Chirag described the unsettling feeling.
“It was different and exciting,” he summed up about the identical Glasgow-based twins who almost the same height (Christopher is 177 cms, Matthew is 176 cm).
It could’ve gotten considerably less exciting had they not overturned the second set momentum that had swung away from them. Matters were compounded because the Indians remained error-prone against the Grimley brothers, ranked No 60.
“We didn’t expect them to play at this level. They played pretty well. We made a few mistakes. And although not the cleanest of wins, we’re happy,” Chirag said.
The Brothers Grimley came out all guns blazing, playing hardly the European tenor of the game. Short, flat, aggressive shots came in a barrage, as the much-fancied Indians got drawn into errors, even as the courts played slow – negating Satwik’s attack a wee-bit.
Playing for the first time since the arrival of coach Mathias Boe, the Indians had anyway landed on the court attempting to try a bunch of new things. Then came the twins.
“We did try varying the pace. We were also trying things for very first time from training so we weren’t playing our regular game. New shots and strategies take time to settle,” Chirag explained.
His serve would wobble on the day, and Satwik playing in the front mostly, would take time to hit the groove as well.
The 21-year-old Scottish pair had to be reined in, by sending the shuttle high and disturbing their rhythm.
“The courts were really slow, so instead of hitting the shuttle hard, I was trying to get the lifts,” Chirag said. Also since shuttles were not the fastest, the Indians tried to vary smashes, half smashes and drops. It would fall in place in the third, but not before the almighty fright given by the twins.
Did they discuss ways to counter the confusion? “Hahaha no, we just got on with it because we couldn’t really figure out who is who and both of them played a similar game!” Chirag said.
Srikanth, Ajay, Sourabh progress
Kidambi Srikanth beat compatriot Sameer Verma in a three-setter to move into the second round of the Swiss Open. A set down, Srikanth had to dig himself out the ditch to quell Sameer in a high intensity opening round tie, eventually winning 18-21, 21-18, 21-11 in a little over an hour.
Chasing Olympic qualification, Srikanth was made to work hard against the defensive blitzer Sameer, who ran out of steam in the decider.
The most impressive win of the day however belonged to Ajay Jayaram, who downed Sitthikom Thammasin 21-12, 21-13 in a clinical display.
“It was a good win today. I was feeling fit and sharp in the run-up to this tournament,” Jayaram said.
“But considering that I’ve had a long break since my last tournament, I was a bit unsure as to how I’d cope mentally. But I think I felt great right from the start. I was moving well, varying the pace and managed to play some good attacking badminton.
“I’m happy that I maintained the intensity right through the match. Hoping to continue this form in the next round,” he added about his match against third seed Rasmus Gemke.
Sourabh Verma too advanced to the next round after a 21-19, 21-18 win over local-lad Christian Kirchmayr.
Sindhu beats taller Turk
PV Sindhu was made to work for her points while downing Turkish 6-footer Neslihan Yigit 21-16, 21-19. Sindhu was forced to play her deceptions from mid-court from quite early on, but found enough in her armour to get past the towering opponent.
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