RI crushes China to keep Thomas Cup
By Primastuti Handayani
KUALA LUMPUR (JP): As China's Ji Xinpeng failed to return Taufik Hidayat's overhead, about 12,000 Indonesian spectators erupted in elation on Sunday as Indonesia won the Thomas Cup for the 12th time.
Led by Taufik, the Indonesian players blanketed themselves in red-and-white flags and took a victory lap accompanied by the national anthem Indonesia Raya sung by their compatriots.
World number five Taufik, 18, defeated Ji 15-9, 17-14 in 61 minutes to allow Indonesia to tame China 3-0 in badminton's most prestigious men's team competition.
"I was very nervous but I believed that Ji was even more nervous. I gained confidence as Indonesia was already leading 2- 0. I wanted to be the decider and I'm proud that I won and brought home the Thomas Cup in my first encounter.
"I made unforced errors in the second game when I was leading at 13. During deuce at 14-14, I knew I had to be very careful and Ji was more nervous as he made unforced errors."
Under a new rule, the final two meaningless matches were not played.
Datin Siti Hasmah Mahathir Mohamad, patron of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), presented the Thomas Cup to Indonesian team manager Sumaryono.
"I am very proud the youngsters gave their best efforts to win the match. They have proved their mounting motivation on the court," said Sumaryono.
The squad of Hendrawan, Rexy Mainaky, Tony Gunawan, Taufik, Candra Wijaya, Sigit Budiarto, Marlev Mainaky and Hariyanto Arbi equalled the feat of the "magnificent seven" -- Christian Hadinata, Iie Sumirat, Ade Chandra, Liem Swie King, Tjun Tjun, Johan Wahyudi and Rudy Hartono -- who won the title four consecutive times in the 1970s.
World number two Hendrawan put the team ahead by overcoming 1999 All England champion Xia Xuanze in a thrilling 11-15, 15-7, 15-9 tussle in 85 minutes.
Hendrawan, who will turn 28 next month, was shaky in the first game and allowed the Chinese player to dictate the points.
In the second game, Hendrawan slowed the momentum by forcing Xia into long rallies.
In the decisive game, Xia took control to lead 7-5 before Hendrawan grabbed eight points to go ahead 13-7. Xia earned two more points thanks to powerful smashes. However, with three service overs, Hendrawan sealed the victory when Xia hit a smash out.
"Slowing down the rhythm and forcing long rallies was my strategy to reduce his stamina. I was able to do it even though I was really exhausted after the three-game semifinal match against Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark.
"Xia has a better speed and attacking but by using my strategy I forced him to move all over the court. I managed to tame him."
The doubles team of Rexy Mainaky and Tony Gunawan maintained their forceful smashing and deft net play of earlier rounds to defeat Chen Qiqiu and Yu Jinhao 15-9, 15-2 in 43 minutes.
"The Chinese played under pressure as they are very young and they were also shocked at learning of this random partnership between me and Tony," said Rexy, 32, who plans to retire after the Olympic Games. He usually plays with Ricky Subagya.
"I think the team is in a very good condition as some players, including Hendrawan and Tony, ignored minor injuries to help the team win the trophy."
Hendrawan was suffering from exhaustion after playing three long matches in the round robin and semifinals. Tony injured his left ankle during the semifinal against Denmark.
Head coach Christian Hadinata said: "The split in the doubles was our strategy to divide our strength in both matches. I was confident that we would win as Hendrawan managed to accomplish his task."
The team is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta at about 3:30 p.m. on Monday.
International Badminton Federation (IBF) president Lu Shengrong announced on Sunday the federation did not decide on the host for the 2003 Thomas and Uber cups during its annual general meeting held concurrently in Kuala Lumpur.
However, the IBF confirmed the European qualification would take place in the Czech Republic while Australia would host the Australia-Asia qualifying round.
IBF also mentioned four candidates to host the 2003 Sudirman Cup and World Championships -- Canada, China, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.
The 2001 Sudirman Cup and World Championships will take place in Seville, Spain.
The IBF is also considering introducing yellow and red cards to discipline players on court.
"The yellow card will be a warning which will then be followed by point deductions. The red card, which will be for disqualification, will be used for repeat offenders," Lu said.
Indonesia bt China 3-0
Hendrawan bt Xia Xuanze 11-15, 15-7, 15-9 Tony Gunawan/Rexy Mainaky bt Chen Qiqiu/Yu Jinhao 15-9, 15-2 Taufik Hidayat bt Ji Xinpeng 15-9, 17-14 Candra Wijaya/Sigit Budiarto vs Zhang Wei/Zhang Jun -- not played Marlev Mainaky vs Lou Yigang -- not played