New Delhi: “He was my enemy then,” laughed Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, pointing to Chirag Shetty sitting to his right, referring to the period when the latter was his opponent before 2016. “He beat me in always in the junior days and me always trying to take revenge. I never thought that one day he would be my partner and the most important person in my life.”
From being “enemies” on the court to being forced into partnerships to rising to world No.I status, today’s top Indian tennis players know, better than many, what it takes to take mind and missions. They symbolize a significant aspect of leadership-partnership.
With five titles already in the bag this year – including a maiden badminton gold at the Asian Games for Indians-Shetty and Rankireddy are at the peak of their prowess today, even becoming the first Indian pair in all doubles categories to rank No. in the world last month.
Although the reigning Commonwealth Games champions have been breaking barriers regularly in recent years, it has not always been the same especially in the early years when India’s doubles coach Tan Kim Her of Malaysia broke up their partnerships current to put them together. . They went through their hard times, still touring, but they don’t point a finger in either direction when things aren’t going their way.
“If we are hard on each other, it will be the last time we play together. In a partnership you need to support each other as much as possible. If you are hard on your partner, at some point in a game or in future you will also make similar mistakes. Then you wouldn’t want to be at the end,” Shetty told Managing Editor Kunal Pradhan at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.
“You have to be as courageous as possible in those moments. Satwik and I encourage each other as much as possible. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake even at 20 years old, there is a chance you can do anything other. It’s 21-all. It’s not over until it’s over. We try to be there for each other as much as possible.”
The duo come from different backgrounds and cultures. While Tulu-speaking Shetty is from Mumbai, Rankireddy is an immigrant from a small Andhra town called Amalapuram. Shetty loves to experiment with food – he loves his sushi and wants Rankireddy to try it, but the 23-year-old has still avoided it, preferring to eat Indian food while traveling abroad for a competition.
“It was very difficult at first. We come from very different backgrounds. Our culture and upbringing are very different. But our coach back then (Tan Kim Her) told us that doubles is like being married; you have to make adjustments. and that’s what we did. He told us to have at least one meal together to have a conversation,” said Shetty, 26.
“To be really good doubles players on the court, you have to be good friends off the court as well. You need that camaraderie and camaraderie. We’re both really good friends. That’s one of the main reasons we do it the way we do on the court.”
Their friendship and partnership has reached so much and now Rankir Eddy has started experimenting with food. On the other hand, Shetty introduced watching Telugu movies which are Rankireddy’s favorite.
“We sacrifice one day for one person. One day it goes into having Indian food. The next day I might have Japanese,” Rankir-eddy said with Shetty immediately interjecting: “It didn’t matter try sushi!”
On the court, Shetty handles the forehand while Rankireddy is known for his behind-the-back flicks, which have turned into a nightmare for opponents. They are also very entertaining to watch with a racket in hand. ‘Maar, maar’ or ‘tera, tera’ can often be heard in scenes when both are playing with Shetty instructing his partner to turn the shuttle into the opposite court.
“He says maar, maar, maar (hit, hit, hit) at every shot I take. Whenever the shuttler comes to me, he asks me to hit. I tell him bhai mera position to dekh lo (please see my position) . What if I can’t do make-up,” said Rankireddy.
Rankireddy and Shetty have now ticked almost every box of badminton. They have a World Championship medal (bronze in 2022). They became the first Indians to win a badminton gold medal at the Asian Games last month. They were the first Indian pair to win the Asian Championship and also the first Indian team to win gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
On the BWF World Tour, only Indians have won titles at all levels from Super 100 to 1000 and recently became the first Indian pair to be ranked No.1 in the world. This is in addition to them guiding Indian badminton to its biggest triumph – the Thomas Cup crown last year.
But there is one thing left – a medal at the Olympics.
They were unlucky to reach the group stage in Tokyo two years ago (they beat champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin of Chinese Taipei in the group stage) but going by their current form, it will hard to bet against. with them.
“The expectations were always there but you have to look at it in a positive way. It’s good that they have expectations because nobody expected anything from doubles a few years back; it’s a very good thing. We’ll go out there and give it our best shot and hopefully come back with a medal,” said Shetty
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