MALAYSIA MASTERS Day 1 – Indonesians ahead in two photo finishes

Polii/Rahayu and Ahsan/Setiawan both showed their experience by winning close matches late on Day 1 of the Malaysia Masters. By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Mark […]

Polii/Rahayu and Ahsan/Setiawan both showed their experience by winning close matches late on Day 1 of the .

By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Mark Phelan / Badmintonphoto

Greysia Polii and Jung Kyung Eun have faced each other 16 times over the years, each with 5 different partners.  Hendra Setiawan and Zhang Nan have played 18 times, in two disciplines, with 7 and 5 partners respectively.  Day 1 of the Malaysia Masters featured some intriguing battles between these long-time rivals but both ended in Indonesia’s favour.

Greysia Polii, of course, has been playing for nearly 3 years with Apriyani Rahayu (pictured), while Jung just paired up with the 19-year-old Baek Ha Na after the Sudirman Cup last year.  Still, it was the Koreans who had excelled since the World Championship break and they were sure to put the 8th-seeded Indonesians to the test.

In fact, Jung and Baek led most of the way through the opening game, until a 5-point run put the Indonesians ahead 18-16 and they never looked back until they had the one-game lead.  It was a mirror image in the second game, with Polii and Rahayu barely staying in front throughout the game until the Koreans finally surged ahead after saving a match point, keeping the momentum to take it 22-20.

The Koreans looked ready to run away with the deciding game, when they were up 10-5 but then, just like that, the lead was gone and it was neck-and-neck all the way to the end, with Jung and Baek trying power, deception, and attempting to tire out their opponents but Polii and Rahayu capitalizing at all the right moments.  The 8th seeds saved 2 match points and then finally won it 23-21.

“I guess we just wanted to come back in the third game after losing the second despite leading all the way through it,” said Greysia Polii after her victory.  “We just wanted to win the match.  That’s why we fought until the end.”

On her see-saw 2019, she said, “I guess all players have ups and downs.  Last year, we were down and up and then down again at the end of last year and we wanted to get back to the top level.  We’re not only thinking about winning tournaments but we want to be able to face our performance each day.  That’s why we want to appreciate every win, like today.”

Of their opponents, Polii said, “Of course, they are good.  They won the Denmark Open and a few other titles.  We had not played them before, though, and I think that’s why we just wanted to focus on our own performance.

“Our coach, as well, told us we have to concentrate on our performance so we don’t want to concentrate on the result or on winning the tournament because we want to get back our confidence.

“In the last game, for those last points, Apri and I were a bit – not lucky – but a bit better than them this time.”

Polii was 29 when she paired up with the 19-year-old Rahayu and won the Thailand and French Opens back in 2017.  Last year, Jung too had turned 29 when she and Baek came together shortly before the former World Junior Champion’s 19th birthday.

“Kyung Eun and I are both now bringing up junior players.  It’s fun and it’s nice that we still compete with each other.  We still want to fight and don’t want to lose to each other.  That’s how we play together.”

Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan (pictured) were in a very different position from their female compatriots in their first-round match on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.  Ranked #2 in the world, they are coming off a stellar season.

Zhang Nan and Ou Xuanyi may be a relatively new pair but Ou is no youngster at 25 and the duo already have two Super 100 titles to their name.  What’s more, the last time they met, they pushed the reigning World Champions right to the limit before bowing 29-30 in the decider.

Tuesday’s match was close and it was fast and furious, but the Chinese were not able to make it go the distance as they had last time.  They did save 4 match points but the Indonesians prevailed in the end and won 24-22 to advance in straight games.

Click here for complete Day 1 results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @