Indonesia pin hope on Sugiarto

Home favourite's bid to lift world badminton title in Jakarta faces obstacles in kingpins Chen, Lee and Lin

Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto shrugs off an uncertain start against Spain's Pablo Abian to cruise into the second round with a 21-16, 21-13 victory at badminton's World Championships.
Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto shrugs off an uncertain start against Spain's Pablo Abian to cruise into the second round with a 21-16, 21-13 victory at badminton's World Championships.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • Indonesia showed their intentions to do well at badminton's World Championships, which started in Jakarta yesterday, with home favourite Tommy Sugiarto cruising into the second round.

But it will not be all smooth sailing for their men's singles players as world No. 1 Chen Long announced that he has set his sights on clinching a second straight world title this weekend.

Sugiarto, Indonesia's top medal prospect, defeated Spain's European Games winner Pablo Abian 21-16, 21-13 and will next face unseeded Hong Kong shuttler Wei Nan, who prevailed over American Howard Shu 21-19, 24-26, 21-18.

The 15th seed Sugiarto looked a little unsteady in the first set, with Abian taking an early lead and threatening to upstage the Indonesian champion before a rowdy home crowd.

But the 27-year-old recovered with a string of quick points to claim the first set, before overpowering the visitor in routine fashion in the second.

"I rushed to attack early on, and did not relax," the Indonesian told a post-match press conference.

"I tried to get the confidence back to reverse the situation."

Earlier, Indian 10th seed Parupalli Kashyap beat the Netherlands' Erik Meijs 21-17, 21-10.

Bigger names, including China's Lin Dan, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei and Danish star Jan Jorgensen, will play their opening matches in badminton's most prestigious tournament today.

But all eyes will be on Chen, 26, who is in superb form having swept four titles this year.

The top seed has been laying solid groundwork for another title since defeating Lee, 32, in Copenhagen last year to snag his first world title.

"It just gave me really a lot of confidence," he said. "I really hope to get my second singles world championship this year."

He will not cross top rivals Lee or compatriot Lin in the early stages - they are in different halves of the draw - and is expected to cruise to the quarter-finals without incident.

But from there things could get trickier for the Chinese star, whose impressive streak this season has been marred by a series of shock defeats.

The last time he played before a packed stadium in Jakarta at the Indonesian Open in June, the top seed cracked in the quarter-finals against Kashyap, a scenario he does not want repeated when he returns to the venue this week.

"The hall is very crowded, and very noisy, which sometimes creates pressure for us," he said.

"I just want to be stable, and play my best every match."

Unlike Chen, women's defending champion Carolina Marin is less confident about retaining her title.

She almost missed the Jakarta event entirely after suffering a foot injury a month ago.

The Spaniard, who has won three titles this season, insists winning is no longer her focus in Jakarta, adding that she is grateful to be competing at all.

"Now my focus is on my first match," she said.

It is not the first time the 22-year-old has been plagued by injury troubles, with a recurring knee problem forcing her out of past competitions and complicating others.

The world No. 1 also complained of fatigue and pain following her shock exit from the Indonesian Open in June in the opening round.

But, despite downgrading expectations, Marin claims she has bounced back to top form, suggesting her ambitions for back-to-back titles are far from vanquished.

"When I went on the court again, I felt better than before," she said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Indonesia pin hope on Sugiarto'. Print Edition | Subscribe