Hendra strengthens defending champions Indonesia in E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships
(*Credit image: Poskota News)
The Indonesians are dead serious and have named their "strongest team" to defend the title at next month's E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships 2018 in Alor Setar, Malaysia.
The defending champions will bank on their all-conquering men's doubles pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and have recalled Hendra Setiawan to renew his partnership with Mohammad Ahsan to kickstart their journey for badminton "majors" this year.
Indonesia are not only serious on retaining the Asian title in Alor Setar but are also looking positively to this year's Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals in Bangkok from May 20-27 and not forgetting the Asian Games which Indonesia will host in August.
Marcus-Kevin are the talk of the badminton world after their record breaking seven titles last year, including the season ending BWF Dubai Superseries Finals last month. No pair has won seven titles in a season.
Setiawan, who won the 2008 Beijing Olympic men's doubles gold with Markis Kido, has been brought back to renew his deadly partnership with Ahsan to add more bite to the team as the second doubles pair.
Indonesia's third pair is Angga Pratama-Rian Agung Saputro.
Indonesia will once again bank on their young stars - Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, Christie Jonatan and Ihsan Maulana Mustofa - all of whom featured in the nail-biting 3-2 win over Japan in the final in Hyderabad, India in 2016.
The other singles player is Firman Abdul Kholik
Not many expected Indonesia to win after they rested their best and highest ranked player Tommy Sugiarto for the final. But the faith in the young paid off with Ginting giving Indonesia a 2-1 lead with a 22-20, 21-19 win over the experienced Sho Sasaki.
Indonesia leveled the score at 1-1 through Angga Pratama-Ricky Karanda Suwardi who prevailed 22-20, 14-21, 21-17 against Japan's Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi in the doubles after Japan grabbed the first point through Kento Momota in the first singles.
Momota came through a 22-20, 21-19 win over Ihsan Maulana.
It was 2-2 when Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda beat Berry Angriawan-Ryan Agung Saputra 21-16, 21-15 to send the final down the wire.
It was then left to Christie and the Indonesian responded with a 14-21, 21-19, 21-13 win over Kenta Nishimoto to give Indonesia the title in dramatic fashion.
"We have picked the strongest team for our challenge in the Asian championships knowing that it also serves as the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup qualifier for the Finals in Bangkok in May," said Susi Susanti, All-Indonesia Badminton Association (PBSI) head of Development and Achievement.
The E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships to be played at the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium in Alor Setar, from Feb 5-11, will also serve as the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup qualifier for Asia.
The top four (semi-finalists) in the Asian meet will make the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals on merit.
"All those selected can contribute points for the team.
We hope to garner two points in the doubles and at least one point from the singles...but more the merrier..
"Our target is to at least reach the final again or even retain the title.
We have the material to achieve that in Alor Setar," added Susi who won the women's singles gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Men's doubles coach Herry Iman Pierngadi said: "There is no question about Marcus and Kevin. Winning seven titles speaks of their capabilities."
"However, we are short on a solid second pair.
Ahsan and Rian did not really gel as a pair although they won the silver at the last world championships in Glasgow.
"With the return of Hendra to renew his partnerhip with Ahsan it means Rian will have a different partner and Angga looks most suitable...more so when Angga's partnership with Ricky (Karanda Suwardi) does not have the chemistry anymore.
They also don't believe and trust each other as before."
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting
Ihsan Maulana Mustofa
Firman Abdul Kholik
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo
Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan
Angga Pratama-Rian Agung Saputro
Gregoria Mariska Tunjung
Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu
Della Destiara Haris-Rizko Amelia Pradipta
Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani-Anggia Shitta Awanda