Commonwealth Games champion Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty’s impressive run ended with a semifinal finish after they went down in three games to China’s Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang in the Malaysia Open Super 1000 tournament on Saturday. The world number 5 Indian pair put up a brave effort but Liang and Wang, ranked 17th, showed better nerves in the closing stages to register a 21-16 11-21 21-15 win in an hour and four minutes match to reach their maiden super 1000 finals. For the seventh seeded Indians, it was their third semifinal finish in a Super 1000 tournament.
The match expectedly was a close affair as the two pairs looked to outwit each other in the fast-paced rallies. Satwik and Chirag managed to eke out a 11-9 lead at the break after an initial duel.
However, the Chinese duo didn’t allow the Indian pair to play their attacking game, using drives and blocks. Soon it was 14-14, before Liang and Wang moved ahead to earn the bragging rights.
After the change of ends, the Indians gathered themselves and turned it around as they broke off from 4-4. Satwik and Chirag won 7 of the last 8 points to grab a six-point advantage at the interval.
On resumption, the Indians were more alert and made better judgement and picked the right shots to quickly move to 14-5.
Eventually a powerful smash from Satwik got them 12 game points and they sealed it on their fourth attempt to take the match to the decider after Liang went to net.
The third game saw the two engage in some fabulous rallies with Chirag taking command of the front court initially.
However, Liang and Wang, the Japan Open champions, soon staged a recovery to lead 8-6.
Two booming smashes from Chirag brought India back on level terms but it was the Chinese combination, who had a two-point cushion at the break after Wang produced a superb flick serve.
Wang and Liang extended the lead to 14-10 before Satwik unleashed a booming smash, but it was negated by a wide shot. The Chinese committed three service errors, but also produced few quick points, with Liang producing a cross court return to make it 19-14.
A long shot from Chirag handed their rivals five match points. A flurry of smashes from Liang then sealed the final place for the Chinese pair in their first ever super 1000 tournament.
World championships bronze medallists Satwik and Chirag will be in action at next week’s India Open Super 750 tournament in New Delhi.
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