Sunday, August 27, 2017
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO
Another stellar chapter in the fabled career of Liliyana Natsir – in tandem with Tontowi Ahmad – was written in Glasgow tonight as the queen of Mixed Doubles won her fourth World Championship title.
Bringing down the curtains on the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017, Indonesia’s golden girl and Ahmad astutely rebounded from the loss of the first game to beat top seeds, Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen of China, 15-21 21-16 21-15 in 56-minute final.
The result in Emirates Arena capped another stunning summer for the No.3 seeds following victory at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a year ago. It was also the sweetest of early birthday gifts for the resilient Natsir who turns 32 on September 9 and a great boost for the spirits for Indonesian fans who were earlier disappointed by the loss of Mohammad Ahsan and Rian Agung Saputro in the Men’s Doubles finale – also at China’s hands.
“In the first game we were not at our best but we believed in ourselves. We put pressure on ourselves but we are more experienced than our opponents and we were confident we could still win the match,” said Natsir.
“In the second game, we followed our strategy and we recovered and we continued to focus and play well in the third game.”
Both she and Ahmad fell to the court with relief and joy (featured image) as another of Ahmad’s smashes pierced the defence of Zheng and Chen to secure match point.
The Chinese cited their opponents’ change in tactics during the second game as a major turning point.
“They are very experienced and we were limited by them and we couldn’t play our game. They sped up the game and were faster, especially in the front court. Also, they changed their serve and it was suddenly higher than normal,” noted Zheng.
Meanwhile, it was the familiar face of Zhang Nan – repeatedly a thorn in the sides of Ahmad and Natsir in the past – who extinguished Indonesia’s Men’s Doubles aspirations, partnered by Liu Cheng. Cruising to a 21-10 21-17 triumph against the Ahsan-Saputro tandem, Zhang too celebrated his fourth World gold, having previously won Mixed Doubles three times with Zhao Yunlei.
“I am very happy to win this title as I have been working hard to fulfil this goal,” stated Zhang; his partner declaring he felt “wonderful” to be a World champion.
Ahsan and Saputro conceded they did not perform at their best in the final but were “grateful to get the silver medals”.
“We have enjoyed playing together at the World Championships and we will work harder to improve and get better results,” said Ahsan, now the proud holder of two golds, a silver and a bronze medal in World Championships.
Despite the disappointment of Mixed Doubles, Chen Qingchen tasted glory in the first final of the afternoon, conquering Women’s Doubles as she and Jia Yifan became the first-ever pair to win both the World Junior Championship and World Championship titles. In just their second season in the top flight, the young Chinese ascended to the top of the podium, beating Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.
The Japanese No.9 seeds threw all they could muster at their rivals but Chen and Jia were simply too tough to be worn down, despite the bruising rallies. They eventually prevailed 21-18 17-21 21-15 when Chen intercepted a shuttle at the net and sealed gold with a neat backhand net drop.
“I feel very excited and proud to see my national flag and listened to the national anthem. It’s fantastic and I’m very happy!
“The Japanese are always very tough to play, but we stuck to our plan and finally we got the victory,” said a smiling Jia.