Sathish’s career has seen an upswing in 2023, thanks to four title-winning runs

K. Sathish’s game is an amalgamation of solid defence and strong attack. The recently concluded BWF Odisha Masters International badminton tournament at Cuttack bore testimony to the 22-year-old’s rising status.

Against the reigning World junior championship bronze medalist, Ayush Shetty, in the final, Sathish provided a rich variety of his strokes to bag his first Super 100 title at the Grade 2 tournament.

Prior to this, Sathish has been playing mostly in the lower strata of tournaments, the Grade 3 events such as the International Challenge and International Series. Of the 19 tournaments he competed in in 2023, 10 were at the Grade 3 level.

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In such a scenario, the manner of his performance at Cuttack must have definitely given him the confidence that he can reach greater heights.

Sathish’s placements, jump smashes and excellent retrieves rankled Ayush to no end. There were a few shots that stayed in one’s mind.

Brilliant shots

At 18-17 in the first game, Sathish effected a backhand drop. Such was its perfection that Ayush, who was in a position to take it, could hardly move a step forward. Then, at 19-18 in the first game, with Ayush parked perfectly in the middle, Sathish pushed a backhand from close to the net to the backcourt to the right side, leaving Ayush a mere spectator. A ferocious smash down the line, to close out the first game, showed Sathish’s attacking instincts.

Having not had a successful junior career, Sathish won his first international title in the senior category when he won the Cameroon Open at Yaounde in 2022, defeating Chua Kim Sheng. Before that, in 2021, he had lost in two finals — the Hungarian International championships and the Ukraine International Series.

After grinding his way through, it was in 2023 that Sathish began to realise his potential when he won two international titles — the Infosys International Challenge (Bengaluru) and the Chhattisgarh International Challenge in Raipur. And the victory in the Odisha Masters has come as a strong vindication of his hard work and work ethic.


“It has given me huge confidence. Actually, in the last two BWF Super 100 tournaments, I lost in the quarterfinals in Thailand and Abu Dhabi. I have won only Challenges and Series events. I wanted to win something better. I am happy to win my first Super 100 crown in my last international tournament for the year,” said a relieved Sathish.

Born in Chennai, Sathish studied at the Ashram School till Std. VIII. However, it was after his move to Coimbatore that his badminton career graph showed signs of promise. “At the point in time, my coach, N. Venkatesh sir, was one of the best in Tamil Nadu. My junior career took root in Coimbatore,” asserted Sathish.

He polished his game further under the guidance of Jeevanantham in Malaysia. “I used to go there to train with him. When I won the National under-19 singles title, Jeeva sir was my coach,” said Sathish.

In everyone’s sporting career, a time comes when one decides to take wing. Sathish was eager to perform well in the senior section on the world stage, and he chose former international Ajit Wijetilekk, who was training in Bengaluru. That was the turning point in Sathish’s journey.

“The first thing I learned from Ajit sir was mind training. Back home, I went to the gym for physical fitness, but there was no focus on mind training. Under Ajit, I developed an all-round game. Defence has always been my strength. Ajit made me more aggressive,” revealed Sathish.

According to the Tamil Nadu player, Ajit wants his wards to do well as that is something he couldn’t do, despite trying his best, because of injuries. Ajit was India No. 1 in junior singles and doubles and India No. 2 in singles for seniors.

His highest world ranking was 403, which he reached in 2011. “He has played in the All England Open, pre-Olympic tournaments, and the Thomas Cup. He has had injuries in all parts of the body. He wants his wards to shine on the world stage. He has always been with us. He has coached my mind, I would say. Nobody has pushed me as much as Ajit,” said Sathish, ranked 61 in the world.

Improved world rankings

The singles crown in Odisha, Sathish believes, will push him into the top 50 in the world rankings when the BWF rankings are released on Tuesday (Dec. 19).

2023 has been the best year so far for Sathish. He has won four titles, including three singles crowns and a mixed doubles title with Aadya Variyath at the Chattisgarh International Challenge.

In fact, three consecutive international tournaments in India — Syed Modi Memorial tourament (Super 300), the Guwahati Masters, and the Odisha Masters (both Super 100) — were considered very crucial for Indian players to improve their world rankings and give themselves a chance to make it to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Sathish made them count. Despite injuring a finger, conceding his second-round match to Priyanshu Rajawat in the Syed Modi Memorial, and losing in the second round at the Guwahati Masters, Sathish gave a fighting performance to secure a win at the Odisha Masters.

Ajit said he expected Sathish to win one of the three tournaments or at least reach the final of one. “When I first saw him, he was a defensive-rally kind of player. I got to develop his game when I was in Coimbatore in 2020–21. Sathish is a good listener. He observes, absorbs, and implements the ideas I tell him. A gem of a person, he is my best trainee (along with Aadya),” said Ajit, who believes Sathish is a top 30 material.

Great team

Ajit, who quit his job at BPCL for full-time coaching, said the best part of his coaching is the team he has now. “My mother has come on board to help me in administration. I have a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach. I am a pranic healer myself and a lawyer by education. I hope Sathish and Aadya bring more laurels to the country. I am confident,” said the 47-year-old.

In the next few months, Sathish said he will give more priority to mixed doubles, where he stands a realistic chance of making the cut for the Olympics.

“Aadhya and I are ranked 51 in the BWF Olympic rankings. If we reach the top 25, we have a reasonable chance to make the cut,” revealed Sathish.

Sathish signed off, remarking, “Now, I have to keep my mind steady, believe in my routine, and give my best.”

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