Hidayat leads Asian charge
By Bong Pedralvez, Subeditor
UST call Taufik Hidayat Mr. Terrific.
Down 1-8 to in the opening set to Anders Boesen of Denmark, the reigning Olympic men’s badminton champion rallied to pull off an enthralling 15-13, 13, 15-4 win late Wednesday in the Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) Cup Badminton Championships at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
A perennial Filipino crowd favorite, Hidayat’s come-from-behind victory was the event’s highlight on a night Team Asia swept all three of its matches against its European counterparts, earning the team three points in the three-day series featuring badminton’s cream from two continents.
China’s Zhang Ning, also the Olympic badminton queen, earlier gave the Asians their first point with a lopsided 11-5, 11-3 triumph over arch-foe Mia Audina Tjiptawan, a former Indonesian now playing for the Netherlands.
Later in the night, the Malaysian duo of Chan Chong Ming and Koo Kian Keat used their athleticism and quickness to prevail over the towering British pair of Nathan Robertson and Robert Blair, 15-8, 6-15, 15-11, to cap the Asian conquest of the event presented by Smart and PLDT myDSL.
But the night truly belonged to the Indonesian sensation, who received the loudest applause and cheers from the gallery from the moment his name was announced during the colorful ceremonies as he joined the other members of the Asian squad on the makeshift stage.
Indeed, playing in front of a Manila crowd seems to bring out the best in Hidayat, whose trek to world badminton prominence began in the Philippines when he won the Asian juniors as a feisty 16-year-old in 1997.
“That’s why I make it a point to come to Manila. I did not want to disappoint the Filipinos,” said the 24-year-old pride of Bandung at the post-match interview, with the help of Asia team captain Dato Punch Gunawan.
Hidayat disclosed that he was still recovering from a pulled stomach muscle, which forced him to skip the Singapore Open two weeks ago, but just could not let his Filipino fans down.
His Pinoy rooters were treated to one of Hidayat’s never-day-die exploits that make him so endearing to many badminton aficionados worldwide.
Where others would have easily given up, the Indonesian ace steadily crawled out of the 1-8 hole, scoring on winner after winner until he had racked 11 straight points to wrest the upper hand at 12-11—to the dismay of his veteran Danish opponent.
He took a 13-12 lead on a smashing forehand, but Boesen managed to level at 13-all for the last time, only to finally yield the set on two short drop shots near the net. That loss apparently took the starch out of the world No. 25, as Hidayat stamped his authority in the next set.
“I was able to make the adjustments after the first set. That was the key,” said the Indonesian, who also noted the swirling winds from the airconditioners that made it hard to control the shuttlecock.
Boesen made the same observation but offered no excuses, saying: “I could have won but it is no shame to lose to a better player.”
Based on the tournament format, Team Europe could still come back Wednesday night, since each match victory is worth two points. Victories in the matches on the last day, Thursday, are worth three points.
China’s Lin Dan, the world’s No. 1 men’s player, was set to play Germany’s Bjoern Joppien in the second men’s singles starting at 7 p.m. while Korea’s Seo Yeon Hee faced France’s Pi Hongyan in the second ladies’ singles at 8:30 p.m.
Thailand’s Sarale Thungthongkam and Sathinee Chankrachangwon took on the Dutch duo of Mia and Yao Jie in the ladies’ doubles rounding out action in the 10 p.m.