* Tontowi-Liliyana may not feature in semis
Touted as hot-favourites, Indonesia may not have their top mixed doubles pair of Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir for the Axiata Cup semi-finals to be held in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
Coach-manager Aryono Minarat dropped the bombshell and said the pair is currently in Bangkok for exhibition matches and may not be able to make the semi-finals.
Indonesia, Asia All-Star, last year’s runners-up Thailand and defending champions Malaysia qualified for the semi-finals after finishing in the top four in the eight-team round robin league that was played at the Britama Sports Hall in Jakarta from Nov 27-Dec 3.The semi-finals and final will held at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium (KLBA) Cheras on Saturday and Sunday.
Winners of the inaugural Axiata Cup in 2012, Indonesia have established as firm favourites after their impressive performance in Jakarta where they finished on top of the league with 24 points. Asia and Thailand finished second and third respectively with 19 points each, separated by matches won and lost. Malaysia ended their campaign in fourth place with 17 points.
“At this stage I am not sure if Tontowi-Liliyana will be in KL for the semi-finals. They are in Bangkok for exhibition matches….something which is out of hands as they had signed a contract (to play in Bangkok) much earlier.
“However, if they are not available we will make do with others,” said Aryono, adding that world No 11 Riky Widianto-Richi Puspita are capable of delivering the goods should the need arises.
Aryono is hoping Tontowi-Liliyana will be in KL tomorrow. “If they are here they will feature in my plans and strategies for the semi-finals. It does not matter who we play in the last four.”
With Indonesia and Asia seeded as the top two teams in the round robin league the draw later this evening (5pm), Malaysia and Thailand will be the two teams in the ballot box.
Aryono is also wary of what happened last year when Thailand outplayed Indonesia 3-0 in the semi-finals although Indonesia beat the Thais 3-1 in the preliminary round.
“We maybe made favourites by other teams but we are taking a very cautious approach for semis this year.”
Tontowi-Liliyana are currently ranked No 4 in the world are the reigning All-England, Singapore Open and France Open champions. Liliyana also wrote herself into Badminton World Federation (BWF) history books as the first player to win three world titles. She won twice with her previous partner Nova Widianto in 2003 (Anheim) and in 2007 (Kuala Lumpur) and in 2013 in Guangzhou with Tontowi. She is also known as “Queen of mixed doubles” for her achievements.
Tontowi-Liliyana have also won the All-England title three time – 2012, 2013 and 2014.
In this year’s Axiata Cup, Tontowi-Liliyana suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei-Chau Hoi Wah (world No 13) in the 2-2 draw against Asia in Indonesia’s opening match in Jakarta on Nov 27. The Hong Kong pair won 14-21, 21-15, 22-20.