SUDIRMAN CUP Day 3 –Threats made good

India’s second appearance at the 2017 Sudirman Cup caused the first Group 1 upset in giving Indonesia a 4-1 drubbing upon their debut. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in […]

India’s second appearance at the 2017 caused the first Group 1 upset in giving Indonesia a 4-1 drubbing upon their debut.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Gold Coast.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

First Germany annoyed Japan, then India shook up Denmark, and Hong Kong backed Thailand into a corner, but each time the higher seed escaped with paper cuts and the odd bruise to their ego.  The Indonesians, however, weren’t so fortunate in their debut on Court 1 which had been growing notorious for causing a greater than usual number of mis-hits and long shots.

A star is born

Rio Olympic gold medallist Tontowi Ahmad, in a two-tournament-old temporary partnership with Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja, fell to a pair with only one competitive international match under their belt.  Interestingly, this scratch Indian pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa / Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (photo)  played with more flow and sense of plan to give their country a positive head start, 22-20, 17-21, 21-19.

If you judge from the stances of the Indonesians alone, they were mainly preventing a deficit from happening in spite of Widjaja’s regular pats of encouragement and her side being marginally ahead in the score-line a lot of the time.  The tactic worked intermittently because stroke-wise Ahmad was undoubtedly the superior officer on parade but Rankireddy’s smash was heavier and quickly re-loadable.

In fact, there were six people competing in this cautious and unrelaxed mixed doubles because the Indonesians frequently turned towards their coaches, with Rexy Mainaky clearly animated.  Perhaps too much mid-game coaching contributed to their downfall because for so long Ahmad had been used to Liliyana Natsir charting the course for their partnership whereas with Widjaja, he was an equal strategic collaborator.

Instead of simply receiving cues, Ahmad had to multi-task and read the game, supply cues back, plus take on board third party advice.

There was a small window of change at the beginning of the second game.  The Indonesians returned to court and both took initiatives early in the rallies.  This removed the handicap of indecision time when reacting to what an opponent will choose to do by invading first.  On the whole, these were still preventative measures rather than a fleshed out plan.

On the first match point, Rankireddy made a bad decision to serve high – which you should almost never do unless you’ve received word from god – and was punished by an Ahmad trick dropshot.  At the second time of asking, the young Indian made a good split second reaction to take the pace off swiping a net shot to the rear which threw off Ahmad.  Rankireddy was already talented but now, a star was born.

Mixed is different from men’s

Men’s doubles belonged to world #1s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (photo) sped up shuttles beyond the comfort zone of Satwicksairaj Rankireddy / Chirag Shetty, 21-9, 21-17, thus salvaging one point in the tie for Indonesia.  Rankireddy saved the first match point in a crowd-pleasing consecutive straight smashing battle with only Sukamuljo defending high and refusing to back off until the shuttle clipped his racquet frame.

Ponnappa was already known as a hard hitter but buoyed by the confidence of her victory in the opener, she returned for the fifth match hitting crisper and heftier, and infected her partner Sikky Reddy (photo) with the same enthusiasm.  India overturned the expectations of a world rankings difference of 13 places to win the women’s doubles too, 21-12, 21-19.  The night ended with an Indonesian outstretched on the floor, shuttle out of reach, and an Indian fist pump.

Straightforward in more than games

In men’s singles, former world #3 Srikanth Kidambi followed the trend, taking down Jonatan Christie 21-15, 21-16, with a barrage of smashes from multiple angles.  Court conditions appeared to affect Christie the most.  Diminutive Indonesian Fitriani almost leveled up on a first game deficit with Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (photo) but the latter forced one too many racquet frame errors from her to take matters, 21-8, 21-19.

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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 @