DJARUM SUPERLIGA Men’s Final – Musica wins the Liga

PB Musica let a 2-0 lead slip away but was bailed out by Taiwan’s Chou Tien Chen to beat the Malaysia Tigers 3-2 and win the Djarum Badminton Superliga.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Ira Ratnati (live)

PB Musica seemed to be doing everything right, moving into a 2-0 lead against the Malaysia Tigers, who had served them their first loss last Sunday in their opening appearance at the 2013 Djarum Badminton Superliga.  PB Musica came to Surabaya looking very strong, with their pair of two-time Olympic semi-finalists Lee Chong Wei and Lee Hyun Il as their import singles stars.

The initial defeat of Lee Chong Wei by his compatriot Liew Daren took a lot of the sheen off Musica’s chances and they were struggling to secure a spot in the semi-finals, having to wait for the outcome of the very last round-robin match to know whether they would advance as the runner-up from their group.

In Saturday’s final, though, everything seemed to be going their way.  With Lee Chong Wei having returned to Malaysia to get a head start on Chinese New Year, Tommy Sugiarto got the nod and he fought back brilliantly from a game down to defeat Liew Daren in three.

Next up, Rian Sukmawan and Rendra Wijaya showed that you don’t need Olympic champions to get the better of Malaysia’s #2 pair Hoon Tien How / Tan Wee Kiong and handed them only their second loss of the week.

“We were trying to play well,” said Rendra Wijaya afterward.  “Our celebration may have looked like a little bit too much but it was not to provoke our opponent, it was just our way to make us more confident.”

Now, instead of the 0-2 start they got last weekend, they were sitting pretty, simply waiting for Lee Hyun Il – undefeated this week in Surabaya – to deliver the knockout blow to the Malaysians.  However, Chong Wei Feng had other ideas.  Chong had already recorded his first ever victory over China Open runner-up Wang Zhengming on Thursday and he was ready to kick off his team’s comeback, which he did by beating Lee 21-15, 21-19.

In the second doubles, Fran Kurniawan had a little more success with a younger partner, Hadi Saputra, but still lost the rematch with Lim Khim Wah / Goh V Shem in two tight games and the tie was to go down to the last singles.  Chou Tien Chen may not have the star credentials of his team-mates but he didn’t win two of three Grand Prix Finals last year by accident and by the time he stepped on court, he was one of only two undefeated singles shuttlers in the tournament.

Still it was Chou’s opponent Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif (pictured above) who had had the bigger tests in Surabaya and he had the momentum of his back-to-back victories over Taufik Hidayat and Wong Wing Ki, as well as the momentum shift in the final, where his Tigers had just erased Musica’s two-point lead.  This match, too, was close, but Chou finished it in two close games to keep both Indonesia Superliga titles with Indonesian teams.

“I am happy that I could play here,” said Chou Tien Chen (pictured left) after the win.  “The crowd was really loud and they were supporting me. I feel like i am an Indonesian at the moment, because the support was incredible. There is nothing like this in Taipei badminton tournaments.”

“This is a huge surprise for us,” said Musica team manager Haryanto Arbi.  “We really didn’t expect that we could win this tournament.  We joined this tournament to make it brighter but then to be able to win it, this is really a surprise.”

In the contest for third place, the crowd support for Indonesian players seemed to be a factor as the first three matches saw import players fall to local shuttlers before PB Jaya Raya Suryanaga took it 3-1 over PB Tangkas Specs.

“We are planning to make the Superliga an annual event, probably starting next year,” said tournament director Yoppy Rosimin, “and we saw that February is a perfect timing for the Superliga.  We hope there will be more top players join us.”

Click here for complete results from the men’s team final

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