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Dream run of Indian doubles pairs end with semifinal defeat at Thailand Open

Up against the world number three Thai pair, Satwik and Ashwini, who are ranked 36th, showed great skills and temperament as they scripted an extraordinary fightback after losing the opening game by a whisker.

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Bangkok: The Indian mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa produced a spirited performance before going down narrowly to top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the semifinals of the Toyota Thailand Open here on Saturday.

Up against the world number three Thai pair, Satwik and Ashwini, who are ranked 36th, showed great skills and temperament as they scripted an extraordinary fightback after losing the opening game by a whisker.

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However, in the end, Dechapol and Sapsiree prevailed 22-20 18-21 21-12 over the Indians in a 57-minute battle.

Satwik and Ashwini, who spent most of the last year away from the court in two different cities and could only practice together for a few weeks, on Friday became the first Indian mixed doubles pair to reach the semifinals of a BWF World Tour Super 1000 event.

Earlier, the impressive run of Satwik and Chirag Shetty also came to an end after a close semifinal defeat in men’s doubles.

The Indian pair, ranked 10th in the world, lost 18-21 18-21 to world number nine Malaysian combination of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in a 35-minute match.

Tokyo Olympics medal contender, Satwik and Chirag, had won their maiden super 500 title in Thailand and entered the finals of French open super 750 event in 2019. The duo had participated in Super 1000 events in 2018 ad 2019 but this is the first time it entered the semifinals.

In mixed doubles, Satwik and Ashwini had played twice against the Thailand pair but could never take a game away. The duo showed great resilience on Saturday to catch up with their fancied rivals throughout the match before succumbing to a few unforced errors in the decider.

The two pairs played some fabulous rallies and there was hardly anything to separate them. The Thai players were up 11-10 at the break and jumped to a 17-12 lead at one stage but Satwik and Ashwini showed great determination to draw parity at 20-20. But still, Dechapol and Sapsiree managed to pocket the first game.

In the second game, Dechapol and Sapsiree again opened up a 11-6 lead but the Indian pair won 8 of the next 9 points to make it 15-15 and then went into the lead with Satwik unleashing a powerful smash.

The duo kept moving together till 18-18. But Dechapol found the net and then Satwik produced another trademark smash as the Indian duo roared back into the contest.

In the decider, the Thai pair were up 3-0 and extended it to 10-7. The experienced pair continued their good run and managed to create a gap of 15-11 after Ashwini found the net.

The Thai pair then stepped up the pressure as Satwik found the net thrice, which created a decisive gap. Soon they led 18-11 and held match points when the Indians erred at the net again. Dechapol sealed it with a smash.

In the men’s doubles match, Satwik and Chirag couldn’t bring their best to the fore as the Malaysian were more alert on court and also managed to diffuse any attack from the Indian pair to emerge victories.

The Indian duo had a 4-2 lead early on but the Malaysians managed to claw back and eke out a slender 11-10 lead at the break. Satwik and Chirag stayed close till 15-16 when their rivals reeled off four points on the trot to eventually close out the opening game.

In the second game, the Indian duo was up 3-1 but again the Malaysians produced four straight points to move to 7-3. A precise serve and then their rivals finding the net helped Satwik and Chirag to narrow the gap before drawing parity at 8-8.

However, two smashes at the backcourt gave Aaron and Soh a three-point advantage at the interval.

India couldn’t breach the gap and with Chirag hitting long, the Malaysians grabbed six match points.

The Indian pair managed to save four match points before Chirag once again found the net as the Malaysians began celebrating.

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