The moment of truth for Indonesia’s badminton men’s doubles pair Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan has finally arrived.
The Malaysia Open Super Series champions will carry a big responsibility on their shoulders when the world’s oldest badminton tournament starts on Wednesday in Birmingham. The All England is one of the top priorities of the year for the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI).
To the shuttlers, the All England means carrying on their personal missions.
“I can say I have won various major tournaments when I was still paired with Markis Kido, such as the Asian Games, World Championships and even the Olympics. But I never won an All England title. I hope this is the time,” 2008 Olympic champion Hendra told reporters in a send-off ceremony last week.
Hendra’s biggest achievement with Markis at the All England was in 2010 when they clinched the semifinal stage. They stormed to the last four before being stopped by now-retired Danish duo, Lars Paaske and Jonas Rasmussen.
Markis and Hendra ended their partnership last August when Hendra took the PBSI’s offer to rejoin the national training camp. Hendra then was paired with Ahsan, who was split from his longtime partner, Bona Septano.
Markis has continued his career independently outside the camp.
For the eighth-seed Hendra and Ahsan, the road to the All England has been challenging, after being drawn in the upper pool with other top pairs.
The duo will likely meet South Korea’s Ko Sung-hyun and Lee Yong-dae in the quarterfinal if they expel China’s Chai Biao and Zhang Nan in the opener.
In the semifinal, the Indonesians are likely to face either another Chinese obstacle — Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng — or their Danish counterparts, Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen.
And if they make it to the final, another top pair, such as Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, or South Korea’s Kim Ki-jung and Kim Sa Rang, could take down the Indonesians’ dream.
“You see, this is All England. We have a tough draw ahead with the Chinese pair in the first round. I just want to focus on my performance in every round,” Hendra said.
“I hope becoming the country’s hope for title and pursuing my dream to win the title will not be a pressure for us. It will be my motivation to collect another prestigious individual tournament title, instead.”
The All England will also see mixed doubles pair Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir defending their title. With more than a month of preparation since the Korea Open, Tontowi and Liliyana are prepared to face this week’s tournament.
“Coach Richard Mainaky gave us, especially Tontowi, extra training and it has given us more confidence,” Liliyana said. “We know that it’s harder to defend the title and all eyes will be on us. I’m sure our opponents are prepared, but I remain optimistic.”
Tontowi and Liliyana will face Germany’s Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels in the first round. The rest of the event will see them likely meet tough opponents, such as last year’s Indonesia Open champions Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam of Thailand, or London Olympic bronze medalists Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Taufik Hidayat is going to give his last All England performance this week before officially ending his badminton career at the Indonesia Open in June.
Unlike previous years, winning the All England title is no longer a dream for the 31-year-old shuttler.
“I’m not really that ambitious anymore to win the All England title, though it used to be my highest passion. You all know that the All England is the only title I have not won in my entire career. I think I’m just not that lucky [in All England],” said the 2004 Olympic champion.
In the $350,000 tournament, Taufik will face Japanese opponent Sho Sasaki in the first round. Taufik has a chance to meet his Malaysian rival Lee Chong Wei in the semifinal if he can defeat potential opponents in the first round.
“It must be good to meet Chong Wei in the semi. But we’ll find out,” he said.