INA vs MAS: All-Indonesian Coaches "Finals"
The Sudirman Cup 2021 has completed the preliminary round. The countries that won and were runners-up from the four groups are already known. Entering the quarter-finals, the system used this time is different. The team that loses has to leave the team tournament entirely which is held in Vantaa, Finland.
From the four matches that will take place, one is drawing a lot of attention: Indonesia vs Malaysia. The two will compete after the BWF (Badminton World Federation) conducted the draw last Thursday night. In the draw, the winner of each group meets the runner-up.
Malaysia understands Indonesia’s power -- having four out five categories being coached by Indonesian coaches.
In the men’s singles, there’s coach Hendrawan who brought Indonesia to win the Thomas Cup 2002 and the World Championship 2001. There’s also coach Indra Wijaya in the women’s singles, Paulus Firman at the mixed doubles, and lastly Flandy Limpele in men’s doubles, who won a bronze medal for Indonesia at Athens 2004 Olympic.
For them, the strategy to conquer Indonesia is well understood. It’s now the matter of how the players execute it on the court.
Indonesia came out as the winner of Group C with an unbeaten record in three matches even though they had to go through all five matches when beating Canada and Denmark. Another meeting was a sweep of 5-0 when they went up against the Russian Badminton Federation (NBFR).
Meanwhile, Malaysia, one of Indonesia’s closest neighbors in Southeast Asia, broke into the top eight and was in the second position in Group D behind Japan. They lost once in their last match to Japan with a score of 1-4. Previously, Malaysia had a perfect 5-0 win over Egypt and struggled to beat England 3-2.
On paper, Indonesia is more superior with the existing squad so that it is placed as a 3/4 winner candidate, unlike Malaysia at 5/8.
However, anything can happen differently on court. In the men's doubles, the Malaysians have bronze medalists at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik who defeated two tough Indonesian doubles: Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo/Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, who ranked first in the world, in the quarter-finals and Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan, ranked second in the world, in the bronze medal match.
Likewise in the men's singles category. Lee Zii Jia, who ranks eighth, could possibly defeat Indonesian men's singles Anthony Sinisuka Ginting who’s ranked fifth. However, Ginting's meeting record is indeed superior, as he has never lost in their previous three meetings. It would still require Ginting to give it his all.
In women's singles, two young badminton players from both countries, Gregoria Mariska from Indonesia, the 2017 Junior World Champion, will try to beat Kisona Selvaduray. Their meeting record is a 1-1 draw. Interestingly, both matches had to be completed with a rubber game and a score of 21-19 occurred in the third game.
Only for women's and mixed doubles, Indonesia has a chance to pick up points. This is through Tokyo 2020 gold medal winners Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu, and 2019 All England champion Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti.
The winner of the duel of these two neighboring countries will meet with the winner of Japan vs Chinese Taipei. The match will be fierce if Chinese Taipei goes down at full strength. It is unfortunate that world number one women's singles Tai Tzu Ying and Tokyo 2020 Olympic men's doubles champion Lee Yang/Wang Chi-lin are not present. Japan, on the other hand, is still strengthened by the best representatives such as Kento Momota, world number one in men's singles, Nozomi Okuhara, third in women's singles, and the 2021 All England mixed doubles champion Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino. Meanwhile, Chinese Taipei, which qualified for second place in Group B, only relied on Chou Tien Chen, who is ranked fourth in the men's singles world. Even then, he only won twice during 13 encounters with Kento Momota.
In another matchup, China's top seed will meet Denmark. In this 2021 Sudirman Cup, the strength of Denmark, a European country that is trying to shake up Asian dominance, is only strong in the men's singles by having Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen, who is also ranked second in the world, and third place Anders Antonsen. While in the other four categories, Denmark does not have an edge to be able to steal victory from the defending champion.
The match that might end up with a surprise is Korea vs Thailand. Although only placed as the 5/8 seed, Thailand was able to send Korea early, which was seeded in second place. It was proven when they met with China. China was forced to play all five games before determining its place as the winner of Group A. In fact, at the beginning, Thailand had led by a score of 2-1 before finally turning it into a 2-3 defeat.
Thailand's men's singles Kunvalut Vitidsarn is also maturing, likewise with the young doubles of Supak Jomkoh/Kittinupong Kedren. They are the victories that made China fail to get a clean sweep. (*)
China vs Denmark
Korea vs Thailand
Japan vs Chinese Taipei
Indonesia vs Malaysia