For India’s champion doubles shuttler Satwiksairaj Rankireddy it was a dream come true with a difference!
“In 2015, when my teammates were training, I went to watch the semifinals and final of the Thomas Cup in China. And, believe me, I was cheering for Indonesia which was facing Korea in the final. Then, I wondered whether I would ever be on the court playing the Thomas Cup finals,” a delighted Satwik recalled in an exclusive chat with Sportstar on return from Bangkok where he played a lead role along with his doubles partner Chirag Shetty in India winning Thomas Cup for the first time.
“For me, Bangkok has always been a lucky venue. That was where I won my first ABC medal [silver in mixed doubles and bronze in boys doubles in the under-15 category], our [he and Chirag] first Super Series title when we won the Thailand Open Super 500 title in 2019 to name a few,” he looked back.
“So, when we were facing Indonesia, there was that gut feeling and burning desire to be the champions and not be mere spectators,” he said.
Before Thomas Cup magic, 10 Indians became one in Prannoy’s WhatsApp group ‘It’s coming home’
“Well, by all means, Lakshya’s win in the first singles gave us the confidence we were looking for and we told ourselves this should be our day,” Satwik said.
“Winning the Thomas Cup is a different kind of feeling. Though we [he and Chirag] have never won an Olympic medal, this win in Bangkok was obviously a never-before kind of performance,” he said.
“Now, the cupboard is complete – medals from every major championship in badminton,” he said with a sense of pride.
“Three days after the ABC Championship ended in Delhi, we had a team huddle. And, it all started then – the team bonding. We had some sort of bonding before too but this time around it was of the next level.
Everyone listened when anyone else was speaking. Be it the junior most or the senior most. We made each other feel important in the campaign,” he said.
“We ensured that the team spirit was always on a high 10 days before the Thomas Cup began. I can tell you even with regard to dress code there was an interesting conversation. Everyone was talking about
wearing black dress for the knock-out stage. I was the one who insisted on not wearing it. No black please, even if it meant any other colour. And, by coincidence, we wore white for the quarterfinal, semifinal and the final. I told Srikanth Anna – see we won because I insisted on whites,” Satwik explained.
“This Thomas Cup campaign was victorious and unique because we never felt under pressure. In previous editions, there was that feeling that we should win two of the first three to clinch the issue. In Bangkok,
we had the comfort of looking at the players – be it doubles or singles – capable of producing the kind of results expected,” he said. “There was no negativity at all right through,” he added.
Commenting on their doubles show, Satwik said they were completely happy gamewise. “Even when we lost to the Chinese Taipei, we were able to score 19 points in the game. Though the start was not on expected lines, we found the rhythm as the event progressed,” he said.
How Satwik and Chirag won from multiple match points down
“If I were to pick our best match [doubles], it was in the final when we almost lost in the second game. The way we fought back was something unforgettable and more importantly gave India the vital 2-0 lead in the final,” Satwik said. “If you remember that artistry of Chirag in essaying the backhand return between the legs which left the Indonesians stunned in the dying moments of the second game. It was a great show,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that the Asian Games are postponed. Now, the focus is on the Commonwealth Games. We just don’t want to lose the taste of winning gold. Desperate to continue the momentum of the historic
Thomas Cup win,” Satwik said.
“Well, if I were asked to pick one of the biggest factors for this historic win, it was the way almost everyone pulled off wins when it mattered right through the campaign. Everyone had great self-belief. Look at how someone like Prannoy, who braved an injury, came up with such stunning wins in the knock-out phase. It is a complete team effort and credit should go to the entire support staff,” he said.
“Well, I dedicate this win to all the Indians and those die-hard badminton fans who has so much faith, the coaching staff, who were with the team and also to the Gopi Chand Academy, especially all those who tirelessly feed us [with shuttles] during training sessions,” Satwik said.
“No, the celebrations have not yet begun. We just had a good dinner after the victory. Planning a big one in Hyderabad. We are still in a trance after that historic win,” he concluded.