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Badminton: Chirag-Satwik win thriller, Sai suffers upset defeat

Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. Photo: SonyLiv/Twitter

Tokyo, July 24 (MNN) Indian men’s doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy came through a nerve-shredder of a close contest, edging the higher-ranked Chinese Taipei pair of Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin 21-16, 16-21, 27-25 in their first Group A match at the Tokyo Olympics here on Saturday.

There was absolutely no separating the two sides as they remained locked right until the very end. The Indians saved a match point at 24-25 before closing out the cliffhanger.

Having reeled off three straight points from 13-13 due to three errors from the Indians, the Chinese Taipei pair seemed to have moved into a decisive lead at 16-13. However, Chirag and Satwik refused to give in, as both pairs saved multiple match points before the Indians eventually prevailed.

Top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia, and Ben Lane and Sean Vendy of Great Britain are the other pairs in the Indians’ group.

The top two teams from the group will advance to the quarter-finals. Chirag and Satwik will face the Indonesians next on Monday.

Earlier in the day, B Sai Praneeth, the Indian number 13 seed, suffered an upset defeat against world number 47 Misha Zilberman of Israel, dealing a severe blow to his chances of making it out of the group stages of the men’s badminton competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

Praneeth lost his first Group D match in straight games 21-17, 21-15 to Zilberman, against whom he had a 3-0 head-to-head record previously.

The Indian had begun the match with a 3-0 lead. But Zilberman bounced back to make it 4-3 but kept going for too much and a few errors from the Israeli saw Praneeth maintain his lead at 8-4.

Zilberman started to move Praneeth from side to side, pushing him deep into the backhand corner and finishing a couple of points with cross-court smashes.

Sai Praneeth responded with a jumping slice-smash but the Israeli kept up the pressure as the Indian went into the breather just ahead at 11-10. Some deft net play followed from both players and they stayed neck and neck.

It was Zilberman who pulled ahead as the errors started creeping up for a slowing Praneeth. The Israeli set up game point with another cross-court smash.

Praneeth saved three of them before another Zilberman smash sealed the game 21-17.

Sai Praneeth came hard at the Israeli strong in the second game as the pair was locked at 4-4. But Zilberman showed good defence and court coverage to move ahead and went 11-7 into the mini-break.

Two successive errors from Praneeth meant the Israeli pulled away to 15-9. There was to be no comeback for the Indian as Zilberman offered little release, moving an off-colour Praneeth back and forth and decisively finishing points.

Praneeth will take on Mark Caljouw of Netherlands in his second and final group match. The shuttler who tops the round-robin group will progress to the Round of 16.

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