If Nova Widianto and Liliyana Natsir must end their partnership, they plan to do so in style.
In what is likely their last tournament together, the world’s No. 2 mixed doubles pair stayed on course for a world championship hat trick after beating Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat and Ng Hui Lin 21-15, 21-19 on Thursday.
Though the match lasted just 30 minutes, Koo and Ng made the Indonesians work for their third-round victory in Hyderabad, India, pulling level at 15 in the first game and erasing an 18-13 deficit in Game 2 to tie it at 19.
“That was really a hard match because we played on the same level,” Nova said. “But finally we held our nerve and played better to win the match.”
Prior to the championship, 32-year-old Nova asked the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) to find another partner for Liliyana, 24, saying he was too old to continue playing at the highest level. The PBSI nominated Fran Kurniawan (24), Muhammad Rijal (23) and Tantowi Ahmad (21) to be Liliyana’s next partner.
For now, there is history to be made. Winning a third consecutive world title would put Nova and Liliyana in rare company, with only Chinese women’s doubles pair Gao Ling and Huang Sui the only other three-time world champion in the same division.
Nova and Liliyana will meet either Poland’s Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Kostiuczyk or Diju Valiyaveetil and Jwala Gutta of India in today’s quarterfinals. “The quality of play by our opponents was better today than it will be tomorrow, but we still have to focus on every point,” Nova told the Jakarta Globe.
Indonesia’s other mixed doubles entry, Devin Lahardi Fitriawan and Lita Nurlita, ended its world championship run after losing 21-9, 21-9 to seventh-seeded Danes Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl.
“We couldn’t escape from their pressure and made lots of unnecessary mistakes. We found it hard to attack them, so we lost,” Devin said.
Malaysia’s Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif and Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari ended Indonesia’s hopes for a men’s doubles title with a 21-14, 21-17 defeat of Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki and Rian Sukmawan. The last Indonesian women’s singles shuttler, Maria Kristin Yulianti, was also sent packing after a 21-13, 21-14 loss to No. 8 seed Pi Hongyan of France.
Shendy Puspa Irawati and Meiliana Jauhari bowed out of women’s doubles with a 21-16, 21-14 loss to sixth-seeded Chinese Ma Jin and Wang Xiaoli.
Men’s singles play stayed strong as Taufik Hidayat beat No. 9 seed Hsieh Yu Hsing of Taiwan 21-15, 21-19 to reach the quarterfinals, and Simon Santoso halted Kenichi Tago’s surprising run with a 21-10, 21-12 victory.
Sony Dwi Kuncoro was playing at press time, as were Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii.