Axiata Cup: All Indonesian finals as Malaysia demolished

World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei's absence at the lucrative badminton tournament was Indonesia's gain as Garudas and Rajawalis' demolished the Malaysian teams during the weekend's semi-final battles.

The inaugural competition will see an all-Indonesia final as the Tigers and Leopards lost their spots to a stronger line-up of Indonesian shuttlers in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

Lee was being considered for an Axiata Cup appearance, but was not fielded as coaches had decided against it, ahead of the Thomas Cup and London Olympics.

Indonesia's ace shuttler Taufik Hidayat admitted that Lee's absence worked in the Indonesian team's favour.

“Lee not playing in this game certainly influenced the Indonesian teams.  This tournament was a great platform for players to train as a team, in preparation for Thomas Cup,” he told a press conference after defeating single shuttler  Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif 10-21, 7-21.

Mohamad Arif was no match for the Indonesian no. 1, as he struggled to keep up with the veteran player's wide range of shots and attacks.

Having played against young Malaysian players Arif and Misbun Ramdan Misbun, Taufik said he found Arif having good technique, while Misbun's physique was in top form.In Kuala Lumpur, the double's battle proved to be the leg's highlight, with all four shuttlers playing competitively. 

Despite losing in straight sets 22-24, 20-22, Tigers doubles pair Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem gave the Garuda duo Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan a hard time. Both teams were winning points over long rallies, strong backhands and powerful smashes.  For the last few points of both sets, all four were forced to play aggressively. However, careless mistakes cost Malaysians the game.

 Goh told reporters that despite their strong play and neck-and-neck scoreline, luck was not on their side.  

“But we have learned to play with one heart (united) for the team (in this type of tournament).  When one team mate loses, we have push ourselves to fight harder in the next matches,” he added. 

Hendra Setiawan expected a tough match from the Goh-Lim combo because they were “a good pair”, admitting he and his partner got into a dispute with the umpire mid-way. 

“We got upset when the score was 12-11 as she (the umpire) did not penalise the Malaysians for a foul. The serve hit their racquet and went out, but she still awarded them the point.”  However, Hendra said the duo maintained composure, after a near second clash with the umpire.

First singles shuttler Liew Daren lost the first set miserably to Indonesian and Southeast Asian Champion Simon Santoso 11-21.  But Liew's energetic comeback in the second set left Simon grappling for points.  However, 25-year-old could not outplay Simon's tricky net shots, losing 14-21.

“He played better than me, maybe because he was not playing before and was training for tonight's game. I made many mistakes at the front of the court and was punished,” Liew told reporters, adding that the timing of Axiata Cup was tight leaving players exhausted between tournaments.  Liew leaves for the Australian Badminton Open Monday.

Twenty-seven year old Simon explained that he had to be patient in the first set because Liew was a counter attacking player, but took advantage of the Malaysian's errors to win in straight games.  He said it was the target of Indonesia to make meet their countrymen in the finals.

In Jakarta, the Malaysian junior squad lost to Indonesia Rajawali but salvaged some pride, going down fighting to Indonesia's second-liners.

Leopards' coach Hendrawan pointed out that the Malaysian shuttlers were more at ease playing in Jakarta. 

“It is also not about winning or losing, I wanted to field as many of the younger players as possible, for experience, as Rajawali was clearly better.”

The Rajawali team succeeded in completing a 6-0 aggregate victory over the Malaysians to book a seat at the finals.  The Indonesians only needed to win a game to guarantee a finals appearance in two weeks' time, but they gave their all their energy into battling their opponents.

Rajawali's coach Sigit Pamungkas told journalists that the tournament was beneficial to youngsters like Tommy Sugiarto and the doubles pair. “They understand how much pressure they have to face in such an atmosphere.”

The opening match in Jakarta saw the sons of two badminton greats meeting for a rematch. Indonesia's Rajawali and son of former world champion Icuk, Tommy Sugiarto defeated Leopards' Misbun Ramdan Misbun with great difficulty. The 21-year-old son of Misbun Sidek played his best, taking charge in the first set and winning 21-15. He continued to force errors on Sugiarto but his complacency cost him the second set 17-21.  Sugiarto stepped up a gear in the third set, defeating the Malaysian 21-13.

The second doubles in Jakarta experienced a bit of a see-sawing action of scores in the battle between Rajawali's Ryan Agung Saputro-Angga Pratama and Leopards' Teo Ee Yi-Nelson Heg Wei Keat.  The Malaysians lost in straight sets 19-21, 21-23, but put up a fierce fight in the fast paced games.  The young duo took advantage of Pratama's loose play, forcing the extra time in the second set.  But host country double's pair pushed the Malaysians to make mistakes, costing them the second point of this return leg.

The final singles game saw Leopards' Iskandar Zulkarnain losing to Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka 21-14, 17-21, 19-21. Iskandar was clearly not giving up without a fight, returning difficult corner shots, winning 21-14 in the first game.  Iskandar defended his court strongly but lost the second set 17-21 to Rumbaka, who received medical treatment mid-way through the game for a sprained wrist.  Rumbaka returned from his first set loss to beat the 21-year-old, 19-21.Axiata Cup is the first such tournament based on teams structure, and a home and away format. The winning team will take home US$400,000, while runners-up will pocket US$200,000 while the losing semi-finalist teams will each win US$100,000.


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