A new hope for gold came from new badminton mixed pair Lilyana Natsir and Ahmad Tontowi who easily defeated Malaysian pair Koo Kien Keat and Woon Khe Wei in the preliminary round 16 of the 16th Asian Games on Wednesday.
Lilyana and Tontowi defeat the Malaysian rival 21-10, 21-9 at Tianhe Gymnasium.
“I think we started out strong and I kept up the front of the court while Tontowi [Ahmad] took the back. Koo [Kien Keat] is very strong but Tontowi’s attack was stronger,” said Lilyana after the match. “We were just able to take control from the start.”
Lilyana attributed the victory to her younger partner saying that Tontowi is very strong mentally and physically. “So as the older, experienced player, I just work with him on technique and confidence,” said Lilyana.
“When I first found out that I wouldn’t be playing with my old partner [Nova Widianto] I was a little uncertain because my former partner and I were world number one for a long time. I felt I had to start all over again but when I started playing with Tontowi, I saw his potential and his ability.
“Together we have won a few tournaments. Nothing big yet but it’s a good start to this partnership. He is definitely stronger and quicker but then, he’s young, so it’s to be expected.”
Lilyana said she is comfortable and confident with her new partner but they will take it one game at a time here. The pair will play Chen Hung Ling and Cheng Wen Hsing of Taiwan on Thursday.
“We have beaten them twice before so I do believe we can get closer to gold,” said Lilyana.
At the men’s division, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games gold medalist Taufik Hidayat, once again, survived the early test after trailing Hsieh Yu Hsing of Taiwan in the men’s singles preliminary round.
Not like most of his current matches, Taufik ended the opposition of the 2008 Beijing Olympics quarter finalist in straight sets 21-16, 21-12.
“I was better this time than the last time I played with him. The last time I won but I went to three games. Here, I won in two. I know his game and I played my own well,” said Taufik who won the gold for Indonesia at the 2002 Busan games and 2006 Doha games.
Meanwhile, another Indonesian ace and the 2008 China Master Super Series champion Sony Dwi Kuncoro crashed out of the men’s division as he was defeated by 20-year-old Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan 13-21, 21-14 and 17-21.
“I could not take control of the match. In the first game I started slow, he was fast but I did not change my playing style. In the second game he felt back and he changed his game to match mine and I could not keep up,” said the fifth time badminton World Grand Prix champions.
This is the second time Chou Tien Chen has defeated world top rank players. In the current China Masters Super Series he also defeated Chinese Chen Jin, the men’s single winner in the 2010 world championship.
On Tuesday in the round 32 matches, women’s single Adriyanti Firdasari also defeated Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand 21-18, 16-21, 21-15 to advance to round 16.
“I’m glad that I won today’s match, but there will be more matches and there’s a long way for me to go. I need to use more effort if I want to go further,” said Firdasari.
Firdasari will play eight seed Mew Choo Wong of Malaysia in a late Wednesday evening match.
Men’s double Mohammad Ahsan and Alvent Yulianto Chandra, who defeated little known Sharim and Zayan of Maldives on Tuesday, are also advancing to round 16 and will play Chieh Min Fang and Sheng Mu Lee of Taiwan on another Wednesday evening match.
On Thursday, pair Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan who has a bye in the round 32 will play Japanese Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hakayama who defeated Hee Chun Mak and We Kiong Tan of Malaysia on Tuesday.