There were no dark shades or a black cloak, just an orange ribbon knotted at the back of the head. But Chirag Shetty was in full Matrix Neo mode that day. Paused in the middle of the court – with a microsecond’s notice to pounce on the net – he would turn the defense into attack with his snatching hands that moved at breakneck speed, packing the birdie to the other end.

While 85 percent of their winning points in the Indonesia Open final may have come through their offense, the 15 percent defense was not a negative rebound. Maintaining speed and power during a 21-17, 21-18 win, the Indians responded when Aaron Chea, Sun Wu Wei Yik pushed them into the middle zone.

Girag Shetty’s aggressive defense was particularly noteworthy in how his torso swerved exceptionally quickly and his arm moved like swift tentacles giving the Malaysian no breathing space.

Sometimes the pace of his return from the middle does not give opponents time to prepare them to attack. And while defense is not considered the Indians’ strength, today’s sluggish conditions mean they can go from defense to offense in mere seconds, earning points on the counterattack against the world champion pair.

Shetty is 187 cm tall, which means his head is at least a foot above the 5-foot net. To bring his head to eye level with the net, Shetty had to crouch in defense – bend at the knees. Not only did he perfect the squat defense from where he would take shuttles coming at high speed at him, but he also developed a jumping move that helps him hit the frontcourt net in a matter of seconds.

The quick movement to the net is startling, in a flash, partly from anticipation, and also because his coordination with Satwick and court craft has improved greatly.

Peak fitness was also shown as both were not slowing down. Usually when pushed into defensive positions, the Indians tended to slow past, and start playing it safe, something Aaron Shea would immediately take advantage of. not today.

Exceptionally high pace in defence meant he was hardly seen as a hindrance by opponents – something to contend with. It was the same pace that incidentally helped the Indians beat world No. 1s 21-13, 21-13 in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Satwik’s net game has improved since he stopped playing mixed doubles — lifting crosses, not straights et al.

sure in defense

Eight losses in a row means there is a lot of experience I can get for strategy making. “We came close to defeating them but held ourselves back, but this time we stuck to the plan and won big. The plan was not to hold ourselves back while receiving. We’ve always served well against them. Their serve and receive is good, the serve spins a lot. So we had to be honest. Knew too.” That the rallies will be short. You don’t want that. “If the shuttle was down, we would raise it instead of putting it in between because we knew our defense was strong now,” Shetty told the BWF.

Defense was anathema to them, rather so was their belief in their defense – something that was unwavering that day. “The previous eight times we’ve lost, we always felt we could have defended well,” Rankireddy told the BWF. And on Sunday they defended with conviction.

It took some time to course correct. “In the beginning we were playing to their strength – they wanted quick, steady. But then we said at halftime let’s play our style, let’s open the game up. Let them move, let them work to get the point. That was the strategy. First they played well to get to 6-3, Then they gave away five easy points. They knew they were under pressure. In the second we decided we were going to defend, no problem our defense is good,” Satwick added.


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