24th July, 2012
LONDON: Taufik Hidayat, the former Olympic champion who is one of badminton’s big four, could have an earlier than expected end to his famous career at the 2012 Games.
The Indonesian who took the men’s singles gold medal in Athens eight years ago may also be ousted by the man who has been described as his arch-rival, Lin Dan, the defending Olympic champion from China.
Lin is regarded by many people as the greatest player of all time, and if the elastic left-hander lives up to that billing it could well bring curtains for Hidayat as early as Wednesday week (August 1st).
These two greats are drawn in adjoining groups and would meet in the last 16 if, as expected, Lin beats Scott Evans, the world number 76 from Ireland, and Hidayat overcomes Pablo Abian, the world number 34 from Spain, and Petr Koukal, the world number 78 from the Czech Republic.
This spectacular denouement though depends on the sometimes controversial 30-year-old from West Java adhering to his feeling that these Olympics are a suitable climax for calling it a day.
Hidayat has repeated his statement that he will do that here, but he also recently said: “But I don’t know. There are lots of things that I have to consider before making the decision.”
If he does stop, it will be the last time spectators see the tremendous attacking deceptions of a player who is especially brilliant at the net and who became world champion as well as Olympic champion.
He did though have notorious downs as well ups. Hidayat once separated from the Indonesian badminton association (PBSI) and based himself in Singapore, and on another occasion was ordered off the courts by security staff after a stand-off with officials at the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.
Hidayat was also reported to have said that he could not communicate with Lin Dan, prompting the Chinese legend to blame the media for “sowing discord” between them.
Lin was nevertheless reported as saying: “We are not as friendly to each other as to other players.”
Hidayat may be paying a price over the next two weeks for injuries, lack of fitness, and variable form, which have caused him to slip from the world’s top ten. That has made him vulnerable, with a seeding down at 11, to the disappointing draw he has landed.
Another of the famous four, Peter Gade, the former world number one from Denmark, could have a major clash in the quarter-finals, where he might meet Chen Long, the third-seeded former world junior champion from China.
The winner may then have a semi-final with the other of the great quartet, Lee Chong Wei, the top-seeded Malaysian.
Lee’s fitness will be carefully scrutinised for signs of an ankle injury which has placed his Olympic participation at risk.
The women’s singles draw sees Wang Yihan, the top-seeded world champion from China, with a possible quarter-final against either Tine Baun, the fifth-seeded former world number one from Denmark who held three match points against her at the All-England Open in March, or Saina Nehwal, the fourth-seeded Commonwealth champion from India.
The other semi-final should be between Wang Xin, the second-seeded former world number one, and Li Xuerui, the third-seeded All-England champion. Both are from China, which is capable of winning all five titles.