Badminton: Garuda Tops Malaysia’s Tigers
(The Jakarta Globe): Indonesia’s Garuda badminton team won the first leg of its Axiata Cup semifinal against Malaysia’s Tiger squad, but Sony Dwi Kuncoro’s stumble in the 2-1 victory means the next contest will be a highly charged affair.
Sony’s defeat gives the Tigers a lifeline they’ll try to take advantage in Sunday’s return leg at Cheras Badminton Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
The inaugural $1 million men’s team tournament, now the sport’s biggest purse, uses a home-and-away format for the semifinals and finals, with set wins and total points making up the first and second tiebreakers, respectively.
Garuda has a 4-2 edge set wins. The 116-104 point disparity also favors the Indonesians.
But Tigers’ coach Rashid Sidek managed a smile after his team’s loss. “Garuda is strong, but at least we won a match,” he said.
Rashid had another reason to smile: injured star Lee Chong Wei, the world No. 1, might be available for the second leg.
It had been reported that Lee, who is nursing an injured right shoulder, was likely to play in the first leg, but Malaysia held him out at the last minute.
“We decided to give him more time to rest,” the coach said. “We might be able to play him in the second leg, but it depends on what the doctor says.”
Without Lee, the Tigers turned to world No. 28 Daren Liew to hold down the first singles spot, and he was easy pickings for Taufik Hidayat, Garuda’s top shuttler and the world No. 11.
Taufik beat Daren 21-19, 21-9 to put Garuda ahead at the Kelapa Gading Sports Mall in Jakarta.
In the men’s doubles match, the Tigers passed over Malaysia’s top pair, Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, who have been criticized for a recent string of poor performances.
Instead, the team went with Lim Khim Wah and Goh Wei Shem. But they fell to Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, 21-17, 21-17, giving Garuda an unassailable lead.
“We wanted to get more experience for Lim and Goh,” Tigers’ doubles coach Tan Kim Her said. “Koo and Tan will likely to play in the second leg. But we’ll see.”
Things turned some in the last match, with Sony losing 21-13, 21-19 to 2003 All England champion M. Hafiz Hashim. It was Sony’s first lost in the event after winning all three of his matches in the group stage.
“I apologize to all the fans because I failed to win the match,” Sony said. “I tried my best but just couldn’t finish him off.
Indonesia’s other team in the championship, Rajawali, plays Malaysia’s Leopard squad in the other semifinal. Their first- leg match is today in Kuala Lumpur.