Indonesia and Malaysia marked their debuts in the 2020 SMART Badminton Asia Manila Team Championships with a flourish, taking down the Philippines and Kazakhstan with 5-0 sweeps in the women’s and men’s tournaments, respectively, Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
The wins effectively eliminated the Filipinas and the Kazakhs from contention for the quarterfinals in this tournament backed by SMART Communications Inc., MVP Sports Foundation, Leisure and Resorts World Corporation, Cignal, and TV5.
2019 Southeast Asian Games silver medalist Ruselli Hartawan wrapped up the victory for the Indonesians after fending off the challenge of Bianca Carlos, 21-10, 21-18 in the second singles match.
Carlos actually led 18-17, but two straight errors turned it around in Hartawan’s favor.
Hartawan followed up the wins of Gregoria Tunjung, and the duo of Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu in the first singles and first doubles matches, respectively, to set up a battle with Thailand for the Group Y win tomorrow, Thursday.
Nicole Albo stunned Tunjung after pocketing the opening game, 21-19. The top Indon women’s singles player then went full blast to sweep the next two frames, 21-11, 21-9.
“Feeling ko naging maganda naman ‘yung performance ko, knowing malakas talaga ‘yung team ng Indonesia and ‘yung nakalaban ko is ‘yung ranked number one sa Indonesia team,” Albo shared. “And I think nabigay ko naman ‘yung best ko.”
Polii and Rahayu, meanwhile, also had their hands full against Alyssa Leonardo and Thea Pomar, but in the end took the 2-0 lea, 21-18, 21-12.
Siti Fadia Ramadhanti and Ribka Sugiarto walloped Geva De Vera and Chanelle Lunod in the second doubles match with 21-7, 21-8. Putri Kusuma Wardani then completed the rout over Sarah Barredo, 21-19, 21-14.
Despite the exit, Albo and the rest of SMASH Pilipinas women’s squad are grateful for the experience. The former UAAP MVP, “Sobrang laking advantage nun eh, ‘yung may experience talaga sa paglalaro sa abroad, nakaka-tournament ka, kasi nakakaangat rin ‘yun ng morale mo. Kasi kailangan talaga namin ng experience sa game.”
In the men’s side, Malaysia likewise flexed its muscle against Kazakhstan with 2019 Southeast Asian Games champion Lee Zii Jia taking the lead.
World No. 14 Lee was all-business in the first singles match over Dmitriy Panarin, 21-6, 21-12. Jun Wei Cheam then made it two in a row with a similar sweep of Artur Niyazov.
Leong Jun Hao clinched the tie for the Southeast Asians taking down a feisty Khaitmurat Kulmato, 21-13, 21-13.
The two doubles pairings of Malaysia both needed less than 20 minutes to complete the sweep. Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik took down the two Kazakh singles players Panarin and Niyazov, 21-11, 21-13 in the first doubles match. Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin then wrapped up the rout, 21-9, 21-4 over Nikita Bragin and Kulmatov in the final rubber.
Indonesia will battle tie for the women’s Group Y win tomorrow, Thursday, February 13 at 10 a.m. The battle for men’s Group B top spot between Malaysia and India will happen at 4 p.m. later in the day.