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One of shuttler Satwiksairaj Rankireddy’s life goals is to own a high-end luxury car. The 18-year-old doubles specialist has even narrowed down on his choice of brand. Going by Monday’s Premier Badminton League auction, it doesn’t seem like it would take too long to drive the hot wheels home. The Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh teenager was roped in by Ahmedabad Smash Masters for a staggering sum of Rs 52 lakh, two lakh more than Olympic silver medallist Mathias Boe and a good 10 lakh more than former Olympic champion Hendra Setiawan, making him the costliest Indian doubles player at the auction.
The final bid price would put in shade what four World Championship medallists and five Olympic podium finishers went for. Ahmedabad were relentless in their pursuit to bag the teenager whose base price was Rs 15 lakh. “Tell me one reason not to pick him up? In all the team strategies I have devised, he’s a key member. We were clear from the very beginning that we have to get him on board. He’s performed consistently on the international circuit and is a very effective player,” Ahmedabad coach Madhumita Bisht said of the shuttler who is a livewire on court.
Satwik, who has been training under coach Pullela Gopichand since 2013, was a consistent performer for his former side Hyderabad Hunters where he was immensely popular among his teammates, including Olympic champion Carolina Marin.
“Marin messaged to congratulate me. She also said ‘all the best. We are not in the same team and so I will miss you, bro!’” Satwik told The Indian Express. The youngster followed the auctions on Twitter during a training break and admits he was a little surprised that he “bagged that much money”. There are several reasons that prompted such a high bid though. He can play both doubles and mixed doubles, making him a high utility player. His unorthodox yet effective style, that includes a towering jump smash, makes him a tricky customer for opponents.
His agility on court and ability to gel with different partners make him a huge asset. He also began the year with a semifinal appearance at the Indonesia Masters along with partner Chirag Shetty. It took the World no 1 pairing of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo to halt their run.
One of his biggest admirers is seasoned doubles player Ashwini Ponnappa, who was signed up by Awadhe Warriors for Rs 32 lakh. “It’s nice to see that a lot of Indian doubles players have been chosen this season and they got more than they got last season, and that is a start. I am so happy that Satwik has got what he’s got. He deserves it. He has done really well in the last year and is just getting better and better,” Ashwini said.
Satwik, although “happy and motivated”, doesn’t want to think much about the money. In fact, the entire amount will be directly transferred to his father’s account and he will ask him for money whenever as and when he requires.
“I don’t like to deal with money issues. Money is never the first thing on my mind. I just want to play freely. If I need anything, I have my parents and my elder brother who fulfill my requirements. I’ll get my Jaguar probably after 10 years,” he says.
Saina matches Sindhu at Rs 80 lakh It came as no surprise that teams went after India’s top-ranked player PV Sindhu, who eventually was bagged by Hyderabad Hunters by a system of lots as more than four teams were willing to pay the Rs 80 lakh cap for the icon player.
There was heavy bidding for the other icon players — Carolina Marin (Pune 7 Aces), Kidambi Srikanth (Bengaluru) and HS Prannoy (Delhi) as they bagged Rs 80 lakh deals. Saina Nehwal, who surprisingly went unsold in the first round, had three teams willing to pay Rs 80 lakh for the two time-Commonwealth Games gold medallist. She eventually went to North-Eastern Warriors by a draw as Viktor Axelsen too grabbed the maximum price and went to Ahmedabad Smash Masters.
The highest-paid non-icon player was Indonesia’s dependable singles player Tommy Sugiarto, who will receive Rs 70 lakh in return for his services to Delhi Dashers. The PBL is slated from December 22 to January 13 and will witness nine teams competing for the title with a prize money of Rs 6 crore at stake.
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