Photo credit: Tang Shi
The countdown to retirement has begun for one of the greatest mixed double players ever. Four times World Champion and reigning Olympic Champion, Liliyana Natsir, has expressed her intention to retire early next year.
Liliyana Natsir from Indonesia, who will turn 33 in five days, started playing competitively 22 years ago when she was 10 years old. She had her international debut as a senior at the SEA Games in 2003 and has won a ton of titles during her long and impressive career. It’s not completely over yet but we have had a quick look down memory lane for the talented Indonesia mixed double player.
Natsir collected medals from all the big championships and is currently reigning Olympic Champion from 2016 with partner Tontowi Ahmad. The two won the final in Rio de Janeiro against the strong Malaysians Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying. Natsir and Ahmad have played together exactly 8 years; the duo was put together in September 2010 after a successful partnership with Nova Widianto with whom she won Olympic silver in 2008.
Impressive World Championship story
The most impressive streak of medals Liliyana Natsir can present must be from the World Championships. She took medals in 7 World Championships from 2005 to 2017. No other player has done that!
This adventure started with gold in Anaheim, USA, where she won the final against Xie Zhongbo and Zhang Yawen from China with the impressive score of 13-15 15-8 15-2. It was all copy/paste in 2007 against another Chinese pair, Zheng Bo and Gao Ling, and in 2009 they reached their third consecutive final but lost to Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl from Denmark.
Liliyana Natir’s debut at the World Championships with Tontowi Ahmad was first time she didn’t reach the final; Chris Adcock from England and Imogen Bankier from Scotland stopped the two Indonesians in the semifinal – the first bronze medal was in the bag. This bronze was converted into gold at the following World Championships in Guanzhou, China, where Natsir and Ahmad won against local heroes Xu Chen and Ma Jin.
Finally it resulted in another bronze in 2015 before Natsir could once again call herself World Champion when she and Tontowi Ahmad once again finished on top of the podium in last year’s World Championship in Glasgow. Liliyana Natsir’s impressive World Championship story began with gold and finishes with gold. Not a bad story at all.
Apart from all these titles and medals Liliyana Natsir also won a bunch of medals at the Asian Championships, Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games, and several tournaments on the Superseries and World Tour.
Tontowi Ahmad continues
While Liliyana Natsir will stop soon, partner Tontowi Ahmad who is two years younger, will continue to play. Mixed double head coach of PBSI, the Indonesian badminton federation, plans to put Ahmad together with youngster Winny Oktavina Kandow, born in 1998. She currently plays with Akbar Bintang Cahyono and can look forward to leveling up when she begins to play with Tontowi Ahmad next year. The new duo is expected to have their debut at the Chinese Taipei Open already in the beginning of October 2018.
Winny Oktavina Kandow and Akbar Bintang Cahyono had just one encounter with Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi in the past. That was in the semifinal of Singapore Open in July this year where the reigning Olympic Champions won 26-24 21-17.
The last tournament Natsir and Ahmad won was Indonesia Open, also in July 2018. Here they won the rematch of the Olympic final from 2016 in straight games against Malaysians Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying.
We will present a detailed focus article about Natsir in near future where we have a closer look at her impressive career.