INDONESIA OPEN 2012 SF – That’s Why I am Double World Champion

Lilyana Natsir is back in the Djarum Indonesia Open final, hoping to treat her new partner to his first title at their home Superseries. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: […]


Lilyana Natsir is back in the Djarum final, hoping to treat her new partner to his first title at their home .

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live in Jakarta)

On semi-finals Saturday, the locals featured in all disciplines except women’s singles and converted opportunities in men’s singles and mixed doubles into Sunday berths.

Mixed doubles: Difference between a double World Champion and a single World Champion

The mixed doubles encounter between second and third seeds Xu Chen / Ma Jin and Tantowi Ahmad / Lilyana Natsir (pictured above) gave the crowd value for their money and no luxury to lean back in their chairs.

The Indonesians rushed out of the gates 21-16, only to cool in the second game 15-21.  It went to 11-all in the decider and a small lead by the Indonesians met with Chinese disapproval with the situation reeled back to 15-15 .  What happened next was the turning point: at a juncture in the rally when Natsir would have been expected to clear up Xu’s backhand line, she instead had the brilliant vision and aptitude to half-strength drive the shuttle cross court into an open space on the opposite side between both opponents.

Ahmad and Xu each short serving into the net ensued as the pressure became too much.  Two-time World Champion Natsir held her nerve to hold her own crucial short serve whilst  Xu and Ma together committed three nervous unforced errors in quick succession.  Thus Ahmad/Natsir advanced to go for the title against Thailand’s Prapakamol/Thuongthongkam, who find themselves in a purple patch just at the right time for the Olympic Games as well as reminding the rest of the pack of the qualities that once lifted them  to world number one.

Women’s singles: No nonsense “New Nehwal”

Saina Nehwal (pictured right) was one hundred percent businesslike in the women’s singles and attacked heavily from the outset, evidence of her recent transformation into a leaner meaner machine.  The Indian has survived three triple-game matches – with the longest of the lot at 97 minutes unfolding the night before – to reach this stage and she subsequently sent off Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun in her shortest battle so far at 50 minutes.

Nehwal might not realise it until she watches the replay but her marathon matches to reach this far, coupled with her newly defined chassis and higher octane style of play, resulted in a further innovation.  After a fortnight and reaching two consecutive finals, her footwork become economical, probably more through necessity than judgement.  She usually creates a great deal of momentum in returning to her centre base but this time it was akin to drifting, which saves energy and restores balance.

Nehwal denied Sung for the fourth time of ever beating her, 22-20, 21-18.  The young Korean still relies too much on her coach for reassurance with a glance behind at every other point and her coach Kim Ji Hyun is culpable in encouraging this over-reliance.

The Indian reaches her fourth and possibly most challenging Indonesian Open final against the steadiest female player of the year, China’s Li Xuerui (pictured left), who disposed of world number one Wang Yihan again in straight games this year.  Winning this Superseries Premier will send a strong message as to who is the current Olympics threat six weeks out until that event.

Men’s doubles: Danes sizzled, Malaysians fizzled, Lee Speedy

It was hard to ever imagine that Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong were once world number one for fifty three consecutive weeks given how quickly and passively they succumbed to Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen 21-15, 21-11.  A bit unusual in men’s doubles but clearly a deliberate ploy, the first game was characterised by a high percentage of flick serves by both Danes.

Something else you almost never get to see in top international badminton doubles is an outright rear smash winner hitting the floor against ready side by side opponents yet Mogensen managed to accomplish that a couple of times.  If not, Boe would time and again successfully employ his full height and wristy smash to put the shuttle away at the forecourt, while the hapless and muted Malaysians were never to able find match rhythm and continued to hit long of the backline too.

Beijing Olympic gold medallists Markis Kido / Hendra Setiawan at the Australian Open during Easter rated themselves below the current two top pairs but put aside rationale to claim the first game 21-14 against Korea’s Jung Jae Sung / Lee Yong Dae (pictured).

The Koreans, even when they lose the first game, are continually focused on playing themselves into the match.  They took the second game 21-17 after their turn at accumulating an early lead.

The deciding game score progressed tightly past the interval and eventually the youngest player Lee’s tremendous speed around the court, together with the Indonesian’s concentration momentarily waning from it’s highest levels were the reasons the scores began to diverge at 14-14 with the conclusion arriving rather swiftly.

On more than one occasion, Lee’s decisive and amazing speed to launch from mid court to the net to kill was successful.  The distinctive Kido smash plus grunt made a cameo appearance in a last ditch effort to raise his team but Lee remained unfazed, forging ahead 21-15.

Women’s doubles: Marking the net hunter

Indonesia’s Greysia Polii / Meliana Jauhari (pictured below) played a personal best to drag the powerful and astute world number two Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei into three long games, even forcing their Chinese opponents to pull out all their non-technical tricks of the trade during the last six points of the decider from trying to influence the line judge to multiple shuttle changes, to taking longer than usual to get ready to serve and alleged possible shuttle tampering by Zhao, as Polii protested at one point.

Her countenance told us Jauhari was playing at her maximum capacity, while Polii assumed the role of playmaker and smiled big-heartedly through any of her forced errors in betting on their own talents to construct inroads.  The Chinese normal rate of play was higher than that of the Indonesians and they clinched the first game without worrying.

As Zhao Yunlei began to hunt for half opportunity net shots, both Indonesians knew they had to mark their woman as footballers and basketballers are apt to do.  The intensity of the match grew to bursting point as illustrated by Tian Qing serving a high one that flew wildly a couple of feet wide of the backhand side line not long after the final mid-game interval.  Jauhari/Polii displayed everything they were capable of but were beaten 16-21, 21-17, 19-21.  They will benefit a great deal from this particular experience and perhaps modifying their tandem offense to leave fewer gaps, which they could do worse than copying Tian/Zhao’s superior stance.

Men’s singles: Santoso and Du

In men’s singles, both top ten ranked players Simon Santoso and Du Pengyu (pictured right) expectedly overcame their opponents in straight games.  Santoso ended Kashyap of India’s best run in a Superseries by having seen it all before in his time and Du fended off Hong Kong’s Hu Yun’s all-round talents and sporadically spectacular smash winners through resolute fitness at running down and retrieving as many shuttles as possible.

The Chinese has not yet notched up a tournament win and his last final was last year’s Macau Open.  Tomorrow he’ll have to contend not only with a player capable of moments of genius and variation in tempo but the deafening partisan crowd.

Click here for complete semi-final results

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @