China Masters: Satwik, Chirag go down fighting in final

Satwik and Chirag
Satwik and Chirag fought all the way. File photo: AFP/Adek Berry

Shenzhen (China): Star Indian shuttlers Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty fought valiantly before going down to the Chinese duo of Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang in an exciting men's doubles final of the China Masters Super 750 tournament here on Sunday.

Satwik and Chirag, the Asian Games champions, lost 19-21, 21-18, 19-21 to the world No. 1 Chinese pair in a final which lasted one hour and 11 minutes. Their first defeat in six finals this season.

The Indians gave ample display of their grit as they saved six championship points from 13-20 to 19-20 after recovering from 1-8 down in the decider, but Liang and Wang found their bearing just in time to win the first men's doubles China Masters title for the hosts in eight years.

With this victory, Liang and Wang also avenged their Asian Games loss to the Indians.

In a finale of fluctuating fortunes, the Indian shuttlers couldn't produce their best as their defence, particularly Satwik's, wilted under the pressure of Liang and Wang, who looked in the zone.

Wang rose to the occasion and stood tall in the key moments, winning the battle of the front court play with Chirag.

It was not a smash-feast like the semifinals but was an exhibition of versatility of skills as the two pairs focused more on placement and angles, varying the pace to outmanoeuvre the other.

Liang and Wang led the head-to-head record against their opponents going into this final though the Indian duo won their most recent meetings in straight games.

Chirag started with a service fault and then hit two miscued strokes as the Indians lagged 1-4. The slow start affected India as they were left to do the catch-up act.

The Indians kept themselves in the hunt, levelling at 9-9, 15-15 and 19-19 but Liang then unleashed a smash to earn a game point and sealed it, when Satwik went to net.

The Indians regrouped and staged a remarkable rally to win the second game 21-18 but Satwik and Chirag committed a series of unforced errors to allow the Chinese pair to make a rollicking start in the decider.

The Indians fell 1-8 behind before the Chinese pair grabbed an 11-6 advantage at the final break.

The Chinese kept an upper hand and earned seven championship points with Wang producing another stiff return. But then, Satwik and Chirag showed their grit as they went on to save six points to raise hopes of a twist. But the Chinese managed to get past them following another excruciating rally which ended with Chirag spraying into the net.

Satwik and Chirag have won the Badminton Asian Championships, Indonesia Super 1000, Korea Super 500, Swiss Super 300 and the Asian Games gold medal in a stellar year.

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