Indian men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty upset the world No.3 pair of Yang Lee and Chi-Lin Wang of Chinese Taipei 21-16 16-21 27-25 in a thrilling group A match to make a strong start to their maiden Olympic campaign in Tokyo on Saturday. However, 13th seeded B Sai Praneeth suffered a 17-21 15-21 loss to world No.47 Misha Zilberman of Israel in a 41-minute men's singles group D match.
Third seeds Lee and Wang had claimed back-to-back titles at the Yonex Thailand Open, Toyota Thailand Open and BWF World Tour Finals earlier this year. In fact, Lee and Wang had won each of their previous 15 matches this year, en route to winning three tournaments.
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Satwik and Chirag matched their fancied rivals both in attack and defence during the one hour and six minute contest. The Indian duo ran-up a 7-2 lead early on, before entering the break at 11-7. Satwik and Chirag continued to move ahead and eventually grabbed the opening game. In the second game, Lee and Wang converted most of the opportunities to bounce back into the contest.
In the decider, Chinese Taipei pair to held a one-point lead at the break. Errors crept in for the Indians as their opponents led 17-14. A powerful smash was followed by a poor serve by Chirag but Satwik unleashed a smash to make it 15-18. A smash by Satwik and a superb serve and a follow-up body return by Chirag helped the Indian duo draw parity.
The Chinese Taipei duo then made it 20-20 before sending the shuttle long as match points exchanged hands frequently.
Two lucky net chords helped the Chinese pair make it 24-24, before they grabbed a match point. But they failed to convert it and then with the shuttle going long, India once again had another match point. Chirag and Satwik grabbed it this time when their opponent made an error at the forecourt.
Earlier, Praneeth lost tamely to Zilberman. Praneeth, a 2019 World Championship bronze medallist and now ranked 15th, will next face world number 29 Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands.
In the opening game, Praneeth raced to a 8-4 lead early on but soon Zilberman reeled off five straight points as the Indian committed a series of unforced errors. The Indian entered the break with a one-point advantage after Zilberman made an error.
Praneeth lacked in his execution, which allowed Zilberman to lead 15-13. The Israeli shuttler then dominated the proceedings to go 19-14 as the Indian miscued a few shots. A cross-court smash helped Zilberman grab six game points and he sealed it on his fourth attempt.
Zilberman continued to dictate terms in the rallies in the second game as Praneeth trailed 7-11 at the interval. Zilberman eventually grabbed eight match points after Praneeth went long again and sealed the match with a smash.