Badminton: Hendra's back in the fold

Badminton: Hendra's back in the fold
Hendra Wijaya.

Along with his brother and men's doubles partner Hendri Saputra, he retired from the national badminton team in 2011, as both felt the targets set for them by the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) were too high.

After hanging up his racket, Hendra Wijaya set up a badminton academy with his brother.

But Hendra (above) always felt like he still could cut it in the Singapore badminton team and, after deliberating for more than a year, the 29-year-old decided to return to the fold last June.

He will be in action in the OUE Singapore Open men's doubles qualifiers today with partner Terry Hee.

Speaking to The New Paper after a training session at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday, Hendra said: "I still felt like I could do it, that I could play for Singapore.

"I still want to play in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, and try for the Commonwealth Games (in Australia in 2018)."

Win today and Hendra and Hee will move into the main draw, which starts tomorrow, and the goal is to build momentum towards this year's SEA Games in Singapore from June 5 to 16.

This will be the first time that the Indonesia-born Singaporean will play in the Super Series tournament since 2012, where his partnership with bro-ther Hendri ended in the qualifiers.

While the 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist has the experience and skills, he lacked the match fitness to play top-level badminton when he returned to competition.

Said national doubles coach Chua Yong Joo: "We spent a few months on Hendra's fitness before he and Terry took part in their first competition.

"Terry has great potential, and we thought Hendra could guide him on the court."

The pair are part of the hosts' 22-strong squad competing in the Singapore Open this year.

While star names like China's superstar Lin Dan, and Spain's Carolina Marin and India's Saina Nehwal are missing, Singapore national coach Liu Qingdong believes the competition is still very strong this week.

STANDARD

At the pre-tournament press conference at Mandarin Orchard Hotel yesterday, Liu said: "The standard of competition at previous Singapore Opens was not as strong as this year's, probably because the shuttlers are preparing themselves ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games qualifying window (from next month to May next year).

"Also, regional opponents are coming here to suss out the competition venue, since it will be used for the SEA Games."

Women's singles player Chen Jiayuan will find herself in unfamiliar territory in the tournament, as she will be the Republic's top shuttler in the category.

This comes after the retirement of Gu Juan, Xing Aiying and Fu Mingtian.

World No. 40 Chen said: "There is additional pressure that comes with being the top-ranked player in the country.

"But I rarely think about that, and I try to block out the pressure when I do.

"No matter our rankings or seniority, we will just do our best and raise our rankings."

TODAY'S MATCHES (SINGAPOREANS FIRST)

Qualifiers

Men's singles: Derek Wong v Fikri Ihsandi Hadmadi (Ina)

Women's singles: Liang Xiaoyu v Susanto Yulia Yosephin (Ina)

Men's doubles: Loh Kean Hean/Jason Wong v Lee Jian Yi/Lim Zhen Ting (Mas), Loh Kean Yew/Ryan Ng v Philip Joper Escueta/Ronel Estanislao (Phi)

Women's doubles: Citra Dewi Sari/Crystal Wong v Suci Rizky Andini/Maretha Dea Giovani (Ina)

First round

Mixed doubles: Chayut Triyahchart/Shinta Mulia Sari v Reginald Lee/ Chau Hoi Wah (HK), Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Vanessa Neo v Liao Min-chun/Chen Hsiao-huan (Tpe), Terry Hee/Tan Wei Han v Alan Chan/Tse Ying Suet (HK), Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (Chn) v Nipitphon Puangpuapech/Puttita Supajirakul (Tha), Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto (Ina) v Xu Chen/Ma Jin (Chn).

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Apr 7, 2015.
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