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 in Bangkok on Saturday. (More Badminton News)
The impressive run of Satwik and Chirag Shetty also came to an end after a close 18-21 18-21 semifinal defeat to world number nine Malaysian combination of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in men's doubles.
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.
However, in the end, Dechapol and Sapsiree prevailed 22-20 18-21 21-12 over the Indians in a 57-minute battle.
"The quality of the last two games were good. I think we have played one of the best matches of our careers against these top players," said Satwik.
"We couldn't even practice before coming here. We just wanted to play. We gave it a good fight today, it was very close."
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 Super 1000 event.
"We ended up making a couple of crucial mistakes, starting with my serve and then we lost points one after the other from there. Then we changed sides and they got smarter, they changed their game style," Ashwini said.
"Overall, the game was good for us and I'm happy that our partnership has gotten a lot better during this tournament."
World No. 10 Satwik and Chirag, had won their maiden super 500 title in Thailand and entered the finals of French open super 750 event in 2019 but this is the first time they entered the semifinals of a super 1000 event.
"We are happy to play in the semifinals, but we didn't play our best today. We couldn't score points on our service but we were receiving well. I think if we'd been able to take a few points and converted the first game, the scenario would have been a lot different," Chirag said.
In mixed doubles, Satwik and Ashwini had played twice against the Thai 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 the Thai players were up 11-10 at the break before jumping 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 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 had managed to create a gap of 15-11 after Ashwini found the net at one stage.
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.
Earlier, the Malaysian were more alert on court and also managed to diffuse any attack from Satwik and Chirag to emerge victories.
The Indian duo had a 4-2 lead early on but the Malaysians managed to grab slender 11-10 advantage at the break. Satwik and Chirag stayed close till 15-16 when their rivals reeled off four points 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 make it 8-8.
However, two smashes at the backcourt gave Aaron and Soh a three-point advantage at the interval. The Malaysians grabbed six match points but the Indian pair managed to save four before Chirag found the net.
"We didn't control the shuttle. We tried to pick things up in the second game. We could have been calmer. We're disappointed but happy to play in the semifinals," Satwik said.