Court wizards lift prize events
By STEVE PHILLIPS
THE home badminton crowd had plenty to cheer about at the Indonesian Open in Jogyakarta last weekend when four of the five titles went to locals - confirmation that no nation plays the game better.
Last year was a great one for the sport in Indonesia, but this year has got off to an even better start.
Earlier this month, Indonesian players took three of the five titles at the World Cup in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Heriyanto Arbi won the men's singles, while Susi Susanti held off the challenge of Bang Soo-hyun of South Korea to retain her women's singles title. Indonesians also won the women's doubles.
In Jogyakarta last Sunday, Susanti was again supreme, scoring an easy victory over Bang, while third-seed Ardy Wiranata was a surprise winner of the men's singles.
Wiranata notched up a 15-10, 4-15, 18-17 victory over fellow countryman and top-seed Joko Suprianto.
And, in another all-Indonesian final, top-seeds Ricky Subagya and Rexy Mainaky beat second seeds Bambang Supriyanto and Rudy Gunawan to take the men's doubles crown. Victory in the women's doubles gave Indonesia its fourth title.
In May, Indonesia took the men's Thomas Cup and the women's Uber Cup, beating Malaysia and China respectively, and, in March, Indonesian players dominated the prestigious All-England badminton championships in Birmingham.
In the Thomas Cup, Arbi gave Indonesia a solid start by beating Malaysia's Rashid Sidek 15-6, 15-11.
Supriyanto and Gunawan then beat Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang 15-10, 6-15, 15-8 in a keenly contested doubles match. Wiranata clinched victory with a 15-11, 15-5 win against Ong Ewe Hock, giving Indonesia its ninth Thomas Cup.
An unexpected 3-2 victory over China in the Uber Cup completed Indonesia's team success.
More than 10,000 people crammed into Jakarta's Senayan Sports Hall to witness the victory over the pre-match favourites and defending champions.
Displaying extreme cool under great pressure, 14-year-old Mia Audina took the final rubber, beating Zhang Ning.
In the men's event at the All-England championships, all four semi-final slots were taken by Indonesians.
In a thrilling final, second-seed and defending champion Arbi overcame top-seed Wiranata 15-12, 17-14.
In the men's doubles, Supriyanto and Gunawan beat Mainaky and Subagya 15-12, 15-12.
In the women's singles, Olympic and world champion Susanti coasted to victory 15-5, 15-9 against China's Ye Zhaoying.
Susanti and Suprianto, who did not play in the All-England championships or the Thomas Cup, had already made 1993 an impressive year for Indonesia, which had not won both singles titles at the World Grand Prix since 1980.
In Kuala Lumpur, in December, Suprianto's 15-5, 15-11 win over compatriot Hermawan Susanto, and Susanti's 7-11, 11-9, 11-3 success against Bang completed the historic double.
It was no surprise to team manager Leo Wiranata. ''As far as I'm concerned, six of our players could have won the world title,'' he said.
Susanto broke through for his first grand prix title of 1993 at the Hong Kong Open at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in November.
Indonesians captured three of the five events in the Hong Kong tournament, lifting the men's doubles and mixed doubles titles.
In a romantic twist, Allan Budi Kusuma and Susanti, the singles champions at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, were crowned champions at last year's World Cup in September.
The pair, engaged a few months before their Olympic wins, won their finals in contrasting styles at the Indira Gandhi indoor stadium in New Delhi, India.
The tournament was another successful campaign for Indonesia, which grabbed three of the five titles in the US$160,000 invitation event. Mainaky and Subagya took the men's doubles title.
Despite missing the Thomas Cup and All-England championships, Suprianto won the singles crown at last month's US$180,000 Malaysian Open, crushing Malaysian arch-rival Sidek in the final at Johor Bahru.
Suprianto won 15-3, 15-5 to take the title and prize money of US$14,000.
Indonesia also swept the women's singles and men's doubles titles.
Susanti proved she is still the undisputed women's singles ace, beating Ye of China 11-3, 11-8 to pick up a purse of US$8,000.
Subagya and Mainaky again took the laurels in the men's doubles.