Wimbo Satwiko & Sandy Pramuji
Now would be the ideal time for Indonesia’s shuttlers to end their title drought at the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier.
With the London Olympics right around the corner, the $650,000 tournament kicks off today with qualifying rounds at Istora Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta.
The event is one of the Badminton World Federation’s 12 Super Series tournaments. That includes five Premier events, of which the Indonesia Open is one.
Despite playing at home, no Indonesian shuttler has won any of the Open’s titles since 2008, when Sony Dwi Kuncoro was victorious in men’s singles and Vita Marissa and Liliyana Natsir in women’s doubles.
Local stars are aiming to end the drought before competition in London begins.
“My focus is the Olympics, but I’m playing to win [the Indonesia Open] because I want to know where I’m at before going to London,” Simon Santoso, Indonesia’s top men’s singles player, said after a training session on Monday.
Santoso, the Open’s No. 7 seed, has yet to win a tournament this year. He fell in the first round of the previous two Super Series — the All England and the India Open.
“I need to play better before fighting for a medal in London, and I hope to start that here,” the 26-year-old said.
Simon has reason for optimism, given that the top two in men’s singles, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan, aren’t playing. Lee, the three-time defending champion, is nursing a foot injury, and Lin has given no reason for his absence.
“Without them, the men’s singles title is up for grabs,” Simon said. “But it still won’t be easy to win. There is still Chen Long, Chen Jin, Peter Gade and Japan’s top shuttler Sho Sasaki.”
Sony, the 2008 champion, could continue his recent rejuvenation, which reached a new high when he won the Thailand Grand Prix Gold in Bangkok on Sunday. It was his first title since 2010.
Sony’s road to the title won’t be easy, though, as he has to start from the qualifying rounds. The once-elite shuttler’s world ranking has plummeted in the last two years, which for Sony have been plagued by injury.
“I don’t have much time to rest after playing in Thailand’s final on Sunday,” Sony said on Monday. “But I’m comfortable with my game and let’s see what will happen tomorrow.”
Indonesia’s best hope is mixed doubles duo Liliyana and Tontowi Ahmad.
The pair is aiming for a third straight Super Series title after winning the All England in March and the India Open in April. They were runners-up at last year’s Open, falling to Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei of China in the final’s three-game thriller.
“That loss gives us more motivation to win this time,” Liliyana said. “We also want to keep our performance at the highest level going into the Olympics.”
Adrianti Firdasari received direct entry to the women’s singles’ main draw after Pi Hongyan of France withdrew from the tournament on Monday for unspecified reasons.
Adrianti will have a tough first-round match on Wednesday as she will play defending champion and No. 1 seed Wang Yihan of China.
“I’ll just try to play my best and enjoy the game,” the 25-year-old said.
Ellen Angelina, now a coach, was Indonesia’s last winner in women’s singles, taking the title in 2001.