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25 Jul, 2021
Satwik Sairaj & Chirag Shetty turned in a sensational performance against Lee Yang & Wang Chi-Lin of the Chinese Taipei to kickstart their Tokyo 2020 campaign. The Indian duo won a pulsating Group A encounter against the much higher ranked team 21-16 16-21 27-25 in an hour and nine minutes to register their first win at an Olympics Games.
The duo hardly looked perturbed by the occasion and made an excellent start, taking an early lead in the opening game. And despite a tough fight by the world’s third best pair, the Indian pair held on to take the opening game in 17 minutes. But the Taiwanese team weren’t giving up so easily and mounted a serious comeback to take the second game by an identical score line and force a decider.
And what a decider, it turned out to be. Almost as long as the other two games put together, the final game was one for the ages. As both teams had adequate measure of one another and understood the conditions well by this state, it was impossible to separate either. The game ebbed and flowed, and following the midgame interval it looked like the Taiwanese pair had the upper hand. They sure had the lead and the better experience and looked like they might just pip the Indians.
But if there is one thing Satwik & Chirag have proven time and again, is that you cannot write them off at any stage, and any opponent. They closed down on Lee/Wang and forced the game into a 20-20 deadlock. Five match points went abegging for the Indians, before they were forced to save one of their own. And eventually prevailed in what can only be termed an absolute classic game of badminton.
As screams of their ecstasy filled the hollowed arena, the Indian duo had just given themselves the best possible chance of advancing into the last 16. Their next opponents Ben Lane/Sean Vendy lost their opening encounter and a win from two of their remaining encounters in the group of death, could well see the men’s doubles duo in the next round.
Meanwhile, B Sai Praneeth had a disappointing start to his campaign – he lost his opening encounter 17-21 15-21 to 47th ranked Israeli Misha Zilberman. Sai had a good start to the game but then lost his composure halfway through the opening game and never quite looked like putting it back together. Sai will face Mark Caljouw in the next must-win encounter, and needs some of the other results to go his way to be in contention for the last-16 berth.