THE Indonesian mixed doubles pair of Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir presented their country with a happy belated 62nd National Day gift by beating hot favourites Zheng Bo-Gao Ling of China in straight games in the final at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
Joy and despair: The Indonesian mixed doubles pair of Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir (top) celebrate after beating their fancied Chinese opponents Gao Ling and Zheng Bo (below).
Nova-Lilyana started on an aggressive pace and grabbed a 13-3 lead before eventually winning the first game 21-16.
The shocked Chinese pair, who had won six of the seven Super Series this year, never recovered from the early setback. And the second seeded Indonesians led all the way in the second game and won 21-14 to secure their second world title in three years.
In the 2005 world meet in Anaheim, Nova-Lilyana also defeated a Chinese pair, Xie Zhongbo-Zhang Yawen, to win the title. They did not finish among the medallists in Madrid last year.
Nova-Lilyana are now the first Indonesian players to win the world title twice as a pair and they were proud to have beaten the world number one to take their place in history.
Indonesia's chief coach Christian Hadinata also won the world title twice – in Jakarta in 1980 in the mixed doubles with Imelda Wigoeno and in the men's doubles with Ade Chandra.
“We had nothing to lose and the pressure was on the Chinese,” said Nova. “But we were fired up to win it for our country at the same time. We celebrated our National Day on Friday and so it's a very sweet victory. This is our second title for the year (after the Philippines Open recently) and our biggest.”
Nova added that their strategy was to keep the attack on Zheng Bo.
Hey Gao Ling, where is your old partner Zhang Jun??
“He looked nervous today. We did not want to follow their game and kept engaging them in longer rallies,” he said.
It was the second time this year that the Indonesians had beaten Zheng Bo-Gao Ling and the record now stands at 6-2 in the Chinese pair's favour. Nova-Lilyana beat the Chinese for the first time in the quarter-finals of the Indonesia Open this year.
Lilyana said that winning their second world title had given them a big boost towards the Beijing Olympics next year.
“We are confident of our chances next year. We have another strong pair in Flandy Limpele-Vita Marissa. Together with them, we have a chance to win the Olympic gold medal,” she said.
Flandy-Vita are the only pair besides Zheng Bo-Gao Ling to win a Super Series title. They took the Indonesian Open title this year but were stopped by the Zheng Bo-Gao Ling in the semi-finals of the world championships on Saturday.
Gao Ling, the Athens Olympic mixed doubles gold medallist with Zhang Jun, went through another disappointment later. She partnered Huang Sui and they were beaten by compatriots Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen 16-21, 19-21 in the women's doubles final.