Name: Liliyana Natsir
Born: September 9 1985
Place of birth: Manado, Indonesia
Specialty: WD and XD
Started playing: Age 9
Longest partnership: Tontowi Ahmad (8 years)
Biggest title: Olympic Gold (XD 2016 in Rio De Janeiro)
Highest ranking: 1 XD (with two different partners)
Other selected results:
Olympic Games Silver (XD 2008)
World Championship Gold (XD 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017)
World Championship Silver (XD 2009)
World Championship Bronze (XD 2011, 2015)
World Cup Gold (XD 2006)
World Cup Silver (XD 2005)
Sudirman Cup Silver (2007)
Sudirman Cup Bronze (2009, 2011, 2015)
Uber Cup Silver (2008)
Uber Cup Bronze (2010)
Asian Games Silver (XD 2014)
Asian Games Bronze (XD 2018, Women’s team 2010, 2018)
Asian Championship Gold (XD 2006, 2015)
Asian Championship Silver (XD 2008, 2016, 2018)
Asian Championship Bronze (WD 2008, XD 2010)
Southeast Asian Games Gold (XD 2005, 2009, 2011, WD 2007, Women’s team 2007)
Southeast Asian Games Silver (WD 2003, Women’s team 2009, 2011)
Southeast Asian Games Bronze (Women’s team 2003, 2005, XD 2007)
World Junior Championship Bronze (WD 2002, XD 2002, Mixed teams 2002)
Asian Junior Championship Gold (XD 2002)
BWF Superseries titles: French Open, Indonesia Open, Hong Kong Open, China Open, Malaysia Open, Singapore Open, All England, India Open, China Masters
BWF Grand Prix titles: Indonesian Masters, Macau Open, Swiss Open, Malaysia Masters, Philippines Open
IBF World Grand Prix titles: Korea Open, Chinese Taipei Open, Singapore Open, Indonesia Open
Photo Credit: Badmintonthaitoday.com
When she was born, Indonesia had just returned home from the 4th World Championships without any medals. The year before she picked up the racket herself, Indonesia had won 6 medals at the 8th World Championships in Birmingham. At the age of 17 she returned home to Indonesia with 3 medals from the World Junior Championships in South Africa, and just three years later she won her first World Championship title as a senior. This was just a couple of weeks before her 20th birthday. This is the story about Indonesia’s legendary player, Liliyana Natsir.
Liliyana was born in the north of Sulawesi, in the city of Manado, which has a population of appr. 700,000 inhabitants. As a child she always dreamed about becoming a professional badminton player and at the age of 9 she started playing in the local club in Manado. Her talent was spotted rather quickly and just three years later Liliyana moved to Jakarta to play in the club Tangkas Alfamart.
In 2002, just 16 years old, Liliyana Natsir joined the Indonesian national team together with her friend from Manado, Natalia Poluakan. After winning the women’s double category at the National Games in 2004 (Pekan Olahraga Nasional) held in Jakarta, Richard Mainaky invited Liliyana to play mixed doubles with Nova Widianto. That was the beginning of several glorious years for the two who rocketed off winning the World Championships already in 2005.
Video from the Asian Championships 2008: Liliyana Natsir/Nova Widianto vs. Vita Marissa/Flandy Limpele
World Championship history
Liliyana has claimed a historic seven medals in just as many World Championships. She has never returned home from the World Championships without a medal. That is very impressive and will be a record hard to beat! The gold medal from 2005 got a similar partner in the trophy cabinet when Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto claimed the title again in 2007. In 2009 the two were in their third consecutive World Championship final but this time they had to settle with silver medals.
Together with her current mixed double partner, Tontowi Ahmad, Liliyana Natsir settled for bronze in 2011 before she got her third gold medal in 2013, another bronze in 2015 and finally her fourth World Championship gold medal in 2017.
The only tournament or championships where Liliyana Natsir has won more medals is the Southeast Asian Games where her collection consists of no less that 11 medals – 5 gold and 3 of each in silver and bronze. At the Asian Games Natsir never got the desired gold medal though. She and Tontowi Ahmad decided not to participate in the 2018 World Championships, which was just a month before the Asian Games in Jakarta. Reason? They put all in on the Asian Games!
The Olympic story
At her first Olympics, which was in Beijing 2008, Natsir played two categories. She partnered with Vita Marissa in women’s double but the two lost to the top seeded Chinese Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen in first round. Liliyana and Vita played together at several occasions but the biggest success for the Indonesian legend was always in mixed double. Vita Marissa had previously also played mixed double with Nova Widianto and after she stopped her own professional career she became the mixed double coach for Liliyana.
In Beijing 2008 Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto enjoyed big success as they reached the final at their first – and only – Olympics together. Sadly they had to settle with silver after losing in straight games to Lee Yong-dae and Lee Hyo-jung. The Koreans had defeated Vita Marissa and her new partner, Flandy Limpele, in the semifinal. Unfortunately for Vita and Flandy they lost the match for the third place and finished the Olympics just outside the podium.
The 2012 London Olympics were the first of two that Liliyana played with Tontowi Ahmad. This year it was Liliyana’s turn to finish fourth as she and Tontowi lost the bronze medal match to Danes Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen.
Photo credit: Badmintonthaitoday.com
Liliyana Natsir’s impressive career peaked four years later at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She and Tontowi Ahmad won their group after three straight games wins against pairs from Australia, Thailand and Malaysia. In the quarterfinal they defeated their training partners Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto and they qualified for the Olympic final after eliminating the top seeded Chinese Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei in the semifinal.
In the final they faced Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying for the second time in Rio de Janeiro. In the group match the Indonesians had won 21-15 21-11. The final was almost identical to the group match as they only gave away the same total amount of points here as well; 21-14 21-12. With this result Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad claimed the Olympic gold medals for the first time in their life.
There are people who would say this gold medal was meant to be. Not just because of the huge talent Liliyana Natsir clearly always had, but also because Rio de Janeiro is the sister city of her hometown Manado. As we told in the beginning, as a child Liliyana always dreamed about becoming a professional badminton player. Her dream did indeed come true, and she crowned her glorious career with the Olympic gold in 2016 in the sister city of her beloved Manado. The fairy tale was turned into reality.
Video from the final at the 2016 Rio Olympics: Liliyana Natsir/Tontowi Ahmad vs. Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying
And they lived happily ever after… That’s how many fairy tales end. The story about Liliyana Natsir also has an end. As does all other stories, careers, moments… When the World Tour was in China for the Fuzhou China Open and when He Jiting and Du Yue eliminated Liliyana and Tontowi in the first quarterfinal on Friday morning 9 November 2018, the end was indeed getting closer.
That quarterfinal was the last match for Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad as partners. Eight years of fantastic partnership is over. The story took them everywhere – from victories in numerous Super Series and World Tour tournaments to disappointment and early exits in the same. And from medals of all colors in all the major championships, except that Asian Games gold medal, which will never become part of Liliyana Natsir’s impressive trophy cabinet. But that means nothing to us – her career is still one of the most impressive we have ever seen in the badminton world.
During Denmark Open in October 2018 we had a good talk with Liliyana. Despite not having registered for any more tournaments with Tontowi Ahmad, she will continue her career until her contract with Li-Ning expires in the first quarter of 2019. After that she will enjoy having some “time off” and spend time with her family. And then we will see where life takes her…
Thanks for all the glorious moments, Liliyana, and all the best for your future! We will miss you on court!