Three years after deciding to partner each other, the Indian men’s doubles pairing of Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun defeated a top-10 combine for the first time—that too at the World Championships—when they ousted world No 8 Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen of Denmark 21-17, 21-16 in 40 minutes from the Round of 32 on Wednesday.
The world No 35 pair, who were part of India’s victorious Thomas Cup campaign, celebrated wildly after beating the eighth seeds, who also won bronze at the 2021 World Championships.
“To reach the pre-quarterfinals of the World Championships and to beat a world top-10 pair, we are elated. We had blocked three weeks just to train hard and were very much prepared for this,” said the 25-year-old Arjun.
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Immediately after the win, the two turned around to run and hug India’s doubles coach Mathias Boe. “Our coach knows them and their game pretty well and had prepared us on how to beat them. The plan to keep the shuttle down worked throughout the match. We just stuck to it,” the 22-year-old Dhruv said from Tokyo.
A former doubles world No 1, Boe is more than familiar with compatriots Astrup and Rasmussen, who consider the Olympic silver medallist their idol. Keeping in mind how tall the Danes are and how effective their jump smashes could be, Boe advised his wards to not play to the advantage of the Danes. “We just tried to keep it as simple as we could and wanted to be on the attacking side all the time,” said Dhruv, who hails from Ludhiana.
Back in the day, Dhruv used to partner with Krishna Prasad Garaga while Arjun, who belongs to Kochi, would pair with Shlok Ramchandran. But both the pairs could not deliver results. It was chief national coach Pullela Gopichand who decided to split them and combine Dhruv and Arjun. “Gopi sir believed that we have the same type of game,” said Dhruv.
They first played at the Dubai International Challenge in October 2019 before reaching the finals of both Nepal International and Bangladesh International, losing both but significantly clicking as a pair.
But with time, the two started syncing with Dhruv smashing from the back and Arjun handling the net and that was on display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Wednesday. After several lows and years of struggle, the pair are now ranked No 35 in the world—the second highest Indian pairing after Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who are world No 7.
“The standard of the doubles game is only going high in India. In men’s doubles, now we’ve got three good pairs. After Satwik and Chirag, we have two other pairs who are doing really well and it is good to see the level of badminton that they are playing,” said Ashwini Ponnappa, one-half of the only Indian pair to medal at the World Championships along with Jwala Gutta.
“They might not have got the results that Satwik and Chirag have but it is nice to see the confidence. I feel Satwik and Chirag have paved the way for men’s doubles and it is definitely rubbing off on the other pairs. The kind of support doubles is getting, we’ve never had that in the past so it is good.”
Arjun and Dhruv will next face Singaporean world No 41 pairing Hee Yong Kai Terry and Loh Kean Hean, for the first time on the circuit, in the Round of 16.