Primastuti Handayani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia's badminton shine has slowly dimmed — losing in the coveted Thomas Cup, Uber Cup and Sudirman Cup team championships — in recent years. Anything related to badminton achievements has been losing coverage on TV screens and sports pages.
In individual events, not many players are under the spotlight nowadays, except for men's singles ace Taufik Hidayat, whose personal life has gained more exposure than his up-and-down ranking.
Such a situation has made players feel the nation is not behind them.
"The officials only know the word 'win' and grill us when we lose," said mixed doubles specialist Nova Widianto.
As one of 11 players sent to the World Badminton Championships in Madrid, set to kick off Monday, Nova and partner Lilyana Natsir have a gigantic burden on their shoulders: retaining their crown.
"It's shocking to learn that the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) did not send more doubles, although they qualify, as a backup," said the 28-year-old player.
"Look at Malaysia. They sent three pairs of mixed doubles to the event although they never win in regular tournaments."
Cash-strapped PBSI has opted to send potential title winners to the event — defending champion Taufik and sidekick Sony Dwi Kuncoro; men's doubles: Luluk Hadiyanto/Alvent Yulianto and Markis Kido/Hendra Setiawan; and Nova/Lilyana.
Surprisingly, PBSI also agreed to send women's singles Fransisca "Nana" Ratnasari and women's doubles Jo Novita/Greysia Polii, despite their slim chances.
"It's going to be a tough match but I hope I can reach the third round to play against top seed Zhang Ning," said Nana. She will meet Jeanine Cicognini of Switzerland in the first round.
Although winning two titles at last year's event in Anaheim, California, Indonesia's achievements at the world championships are not as consistent as badminton powerhouse China.
China has dominated all sectors, in particular the women's singles and doubles. Chinese women's doubles took 12 titles in 14 championships and has dominated the women's singles title in the past three events since Camilla Martin of Denmark won it in 1999.
Indonesia has been loosing its grip in the men's doubles, with the last win for Indonesia by Tony Gunawan/Halim Heryanto in 2001.
"This year, no country has dominated the men's doubles," said national men's doubles coach Christian Hadinata — whose protegees Ricky Soebagdja/Rexy Mainaky won it in 1993 and 1995, Sigit Budiarto/Candra Wijaya in 1997 and Tony/Halim.
"All countries now have an equal chance," he added.
Indonesia's hope that Taufik will retain his crown is in question as even coach Mulyo Handoyo is concerned that the 25-year-old shuttler may be losing motivation.
"He has it all (world and Olympics champion titles). I feel his motivation is not as strong as last year. I just hope he can boost his morale again," he said.
Indonesia indeed has to be more cautious this year as other countries are better prepared for the championships.
Malaysia has arrived in Madrid since Sept. 6, eying the men's singles — now the country has world No. 1 player Lee Chong Wei — and hopes its old cracks Choong Tan Fook/Lee Wan Wah can break their pattern of losing in major events.
Malaysia has never won at the championships.
European powerhouse Denmark still relies on men's singles Peter Gade, who was close to the title before bowing out to Indonesia's Hendrawan five years ago in Spain, and men's doubles Jens Eriksen/Martin Lundgaard Hansen.
As for China… The great wall of China seems the perfect description of the country's squad at the event as their players are in the top five in all five sectors. The country is upbeat about its chances of making another clean sweep as it did in 1987 and 1989.
And Chinese head coach Li Yongbo, who has seven world champion titles under his belt, has boasted, as quoted by CCTV International: "I'm very proud of my players, and have as much faith in them as ever. With all of these world-class champions — who wouldn't be proud and confident."
(source: The Jakarta Post)