Liliyana Natsir conquered the podium of the world’s oldest badminton tournament, the All-England, for the third time in March with mixed doubles partner Tontowi Ahmad.
But despite her tremendous achievements in the sport, the 28-year-old has yet to enjoy glory before a home crowd.
As the Bank Central Asia 2014 Indonesia Open Superseries Premier looms ahead, Liliyana has vowed to break her domestic jinx at the annual competition, which is slated for June 16-21 at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, South Jakarta.
Even with the world championship to her name, Liliyana has never won the Indonesia Open, her best finish before pairing with Tontowi a run to the quarterfinals and semifinals with former partner Nova Widianto in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Her luck didn’t change after she teamed up with Tontowi in 2011, when their debut saw them lose to China’s top pairing Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei in the final.
Even after ending Indonesia’s All-England title drought in 2012, they were met with defeat yet again in that year’s Indonesia Open final, losing to Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam of Thailand.
The following year proved to be no different when Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen crushed the pair in the semifinals.
“I’m hankering to win the title. I’ve always wondered why we were able to book a hat trick at the All-England, but not at the Indonesia Open,” said the three-time world champion on Monday.
“I realize expectations for us to win the tournament are huge, which only adds to the distractions we face during the matches. So this time we need to be extra focused. Because I think that’s the key to our victories in the All-England. But still, we will enjoy every game and do our best.”
Going into the $750,000 tournament, Tontowi and Liliyana and the rest of the country’s mixed doubles players have wasted no time preparing themselves for the challenge ahead by jumping into an intensive training regime.
When asked to identify which of his players would most likely secure the championship, Rexy Mainaky, the Indonesian Badminton Association’s (PBSI) head of athlete development, said he considered top men’s doubles pair Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan the country’s best hopes for a title.
However, the former world champion said he was eager to see his other protegees step up their game.
“We want to see our backup players, like Angga Pratama and Rian Agung Saputra, reach the final. It would prove that Indonesia is able to train new, rising talent,” said the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the men’s doubles.
To live up to their boast of staging the best badminton tournament in the world, the Indonesia Open organizers have pledged to up the stakes this year.
“We have increased the prize money and we will also offer off-court activities around the arena. That will help promote the tournament as a sporting event,” said Budi Dharmawan, a spokesman for event sponsor the Djarum Foundation.