The Indian men's pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty had a remarkable season in 2019, having clinched their maiden Super 500 title at the Thailand Open in July and finishing a close second at the French Open Super 750 in October.
These impressive performances earned them a 'Most Improved Player of the Year' nomination from the Badminton World Federation.
Given their form, doubles specialist coach Flandy Limpele believes the duo is capable of delivering India its first doubles medal at Tokyo 2020, provided they work on their defence and consistency among other things.
Close but not close enough
Limpele, who was hired by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) in March, told the news service PTI, “They have made good progress this year but there are few things which they need to change. They have the capability to win a medal at Olympics but they need to be more consistent in terms of shot selection, on-court strategy and have to improve overall.”
Elaborating on their lacking defence and consistency, Limpele observed, “They have good offence but their defence is not good. Their performance has been up and down and the Olympics are not very far now, so they need to work on their defence. Also, once they have more experience, they will do well against the top international pairs.”
Attitude adjustment is key
Also plaguing the players is an attitude problem, feels Limpele. Stressing strongly on the importance of camaraderie, he said, “It has to do something with the attitude of the players. It becomes a problem in doubles because it is a team effort. It is not an individual sport, so you need a caring partner, you need to train and spur together, push each other.”
"They need to have the same target, need to be on the same page, if they are not, it is not possible to win tournaments.”
Productive culture clash
Aware of the fact that each country has its own culture and practices, Limpele feels a change in mindset is important if India wishes to surge upward in the doubles competition. “As a coach, my job is to change all that, make a good team work, and I will try to do that, that's how Satwik and Chirag came up. They are most receptive to my ideas and so the results are showing. I'm there to help,” he stressed.
Limpele's contract runs until Tokyo 2020, and the Indonesian looks set to give it his all to push Indian doubles badminton toward its first Olympic medal, provided Satwik and Chirag put in the same commitment, “I do hope I can bring doubles medal from Olympics. God willing, I do hope so, hopefully the players are also willing to work hard for the medal.”