Mathias has lived through what Satwik and Chirag scripted in those 73 minutes, which involved a miraculous recovery. In 2010, at the All England doubles final, the Dane was at the other side of it, alongside partner Carsten Mogensen. They squandered four match points before losing the fight for the title against their compatriots — Lars Paaske and Jonas Rasmussen.
Mathias could, hence, empathise with the Indonesians – Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sukamuljo – who couldn’t convert any of those four match points. He termed it as a “miracle” at the hands of some steely resolve from the Indians that turned the doubles match on its head for a 2-0 lead in the final, which was turned into a title-clinching 3-0 scoreline by Kidambi Srikanth an hour later.
Proud to a part of this fantastic team. Thomas Cup final Sunday, one more to go🙏🏻💪🏻 🇮🇳🔨🚀 https://t.co/5zas3L1nkv
— Mathias Boe (@mathiasboe) 1652466230000
India had beaten heavyweights Malaysia in the quarterfinals, followed by Denmark in the semis, and the duo of Satwik-Chirag scripted crucial wins in both the matches, before completing the ‘giant-killing’ hat-trick against Indonesia.
But after the Tokyo Olympics last year, where Satwik and Chirag were eliminated in the group stage to mark the end of Mathias’s contract as India’s doubles coach, the Denmark great never thought he would be back courtside.
He had a property business to look forward to, besides his profile as an investor in the stock market. But destiny had chosen him to return as India coach, and something told him that he wasn’t done with badminton yet. He said ‘yes’ to the offer.
Mathias was ready to experience the highs and lows of the sport once again, and he talked about all that and more in this interview with TimesofIndia.com.
Haha I love this bunch ❤️#Champions https://t.co/UJrepfff5j
— PRANNOY HS (@PRANNOYHSPRI) 1652695490000
How would you sum up India’s title win at the Thomas Cup?
This was not possible to do without a fantastic team of 10 fantastic players who were performing very well on court and off court, cheering each other on, supporting each other. It’s a team event. This was a team effort. Most of the players won crucial matches. Doubles also had crucial wins. But I can’t give the entire honour to Satwik and Chirag. I want to give the honour to the entire team and the staff around them.
What does this win mean to you personally, especially after agreeing to return as India coach?
First of all, I love competing and I love even more to win…I was hungry and greedy to win more titles all the time. That gives you a little bit of a high and I missed that a little bit. That’s why I resumed and started coaching a little bit. Obviously, with the potential I saw and still see in Indian doubles, I thought this was a perfect match for me to be part of. So I am extremely proud and happy that this was possible for me to achieve as a coach and become a part of history and especially history in the Indian badminton culture. So for me it’s a tremendous achievement and I am really, really proud of the players.
Satwik is back 🤩🤩#ThomasCup2022 Champion @satwiksairaj being welcomed by SAI Officials at Hyderabad Airport Fan… https://t.co/Y21WKrGcSJ
— SAI Media (@Media_SAI) 1652935905000
The culture in Indian badminton mainly revolves around singles. What did you make of the Indian doubles players when you joined the Indian set-up as coach?
When I was still active (on the Tour as a player), I played Satwik and Chirag. I think the last match I played against them, I lost to them…I think that was the end of 2019. At that time they were already around top 10 in the world and had big results already. Then also the new generation, if you can call it that, they have also played a lot of tournaments. Whenever I have been in Hyderabad and seen them practice, then I realize that there is great potential.
Obviously I knew the potential of badminton players here in India, but it’s been mostly focused around singles for the last many years. (But) I knew that they have something to become the best (doubles) players in the world. I knew that they can contribute a lot to other big talents in India and see how it’s actually possible to be one of the best doubles players in the world coming from India, not just singles players.
Creating a little bit of this doubles culture in India is obviously something that I really want to be a part of and am a part of now. But no doubt about – Satwik and Chirag – how they played, especially in the big periods of the final against Kevin and Ahsan. They can achieve more than this and win some of the big tournaments. I don’t doubt that (even) for a second. We need to be humble, we need to stay focused, we need to work even harder than we have done before and then hopefully we can achieve great things in the future.
A special interaction with our badminton 🏸 champions, who have won the Thomas Cup and made 135 crore Indians proud. https://t.co/KdRYVscDAK
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1652621858000
You said you have been on court against Satwik and Chirag as a player. How did they react when you first joined as coach?
Maybe they would be able to better answer this question. Personally, I have a quite clear picture of how men’s doubles should be played, what tools you need…Also I have a pretty clear picture of how I feel I can make the best version of Satwik and Chirag as badminton players. There are a few adjustments that need to be done. They are physically very strong, stronger than many of their opponents and they need to take advantage of that a little bit more than what they are doing now. So there are some changes that we are working on in the sessions
What is your assessment of the next-in-line doubles players from India?
Their tactical skills need to improve a little bit. That is something I am working with them every day on. My methods of training are also a little bit different. I go for quality over quantity. So we are having a little bit shorter sessions but much more intense sessions, so that we stay alert all the time. That way it’s a little bit of a change for them but obviously since we did it six months before the Olympics, now they are used to it and know my exercises and how they are, and how I shout at them (laughs) if I see they are not 100%.
Thank You For the welcome!😇 https://t.co/As1zFdSMrp
— Chirag Shetty (@Shettychirag04) 1652898379000
Take us through those tense moments in the doubles match against Indonesia in the Thomas Cup final?
First of all, I was trying to stay calm and not look like we have lost. On court, I first of all remind them of the tactical things that we talked about, how we would score the points. I remember telling Chirag, there was a short break, when we were down 19-15. I called them over and told them, “we need to keep it simple, we need to get the shuttles under the tape. We need to stay in it and believe.
Then, by some miracle, they caught up with them 20-all after they had a big smash for the winner. Then momentum changed a little bit. The third game was also an all-even game but I still felt we definitely had the chance of coming out on top and luckily they did. It’s one of these matches when you are down and out but you keep believing and fighting for each and every point. Then sometimes an opening occurs and in this case we were lucky. Nine other times it would not have happened. But because we kept believing in it, kept fighting for the points, we managed to pull off a win.
Chirag and Satwik are two entirely different characters, where the former is the aggressor. How has that helped them evolve as a pair?
Chirag, what we talk about when he is playing, he needs to be a little bit more like ‘come on, come on’, a little bit more aggressive-looking. But Satwik feels better when he just stays in his zone and is not like super-verbal. He stays like that. These are the characters that they both are and this is how it fits their personality also. It’s actually something that we talked a lot about, that we need to have that fire in Chirag, and Satwik needs to be a little more calm.
So that is definitely something we are aware of, how we get the best out of them. As I said in the beginning, badminton and all sports is a mental thing. Between these players at this level, it is just who is…mentally better to come out on top, and sometimes a little bit of luck is also needed. Luck favours the brave. It favours the ones who are trying to get it (a win). Luckily on Sunday that was us.
Historic moment for all Indians! 🏸👏🏻What a day for Indian Badminton. Congratulations to the whole team on winni… https://t.co/ETLJhPgUDH
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) 1652614555000
Where do you think Satwik and Chirag go from here? In short, your plan for the road ahead…
I am trying to push them. Sometimes I feel with the culture in India, we put a great honour on a pedestal…I want them each and every day at practice and challenge them. I want to put their faces up on a dart board and throw darts at them because they want to come (back) better than they are.
The great part of Satwik and Chirag’s success is that the level in the sessions we have is high and it is only high due to the sparring partners, the colleagues they have. Because if there wasn’t a Vishnuvardhan (Panjala) and Krishna (Prasad), if there wasn’t an (MR) Arjun and Dhruv (Kapila) to challenge them, to smash on them, to do these exercises with them every day, then they couldn’t keep this level. It’s not possible for me only to train Satwik and Chirag for them to become world champions. They need their sparring partners to keep the level and intensity high in practice. So this is not just them. It’s the entire doubles squad that has great honour in their recent form and how they have performed during this tournament.
What is your future expectation from the players you mentioned — Krishna, Vishnuvardhan, Dhruv and Arjun, who were part of the Thomas Cup campaign as well?
They are really fortunate to have role models in the sessions that they can look up to, learn from them, suck the blood out of them, see what Chirag is doing, what makes him so good at the net, what makes Satwik so powerful, how they do it. They have got the best seat in the house to learn this because they practice with them each and every day. They have to use that in a positive way to boost themselves. And whoever is the best at doing that, they have a really good chance at becoming world class players. Satwik and Chirag have now led the way and showed that it is possible for an Indian to become a world class doubles player.
We are friendly on court, we are helping each other also, we are supporting each other, we are chanting for each other…You always need to look at who is the best and then really tell yourself each and every hour ‘I want to become better’. That is the mentality I am trying to push all the young players to have.