Guess whose back on form? Just take a wild guess? Let me introduce you to the "Most natural and talented Badminton Player", Taufik Hidayat! Its a real pleasure to see this great man come back in form as the Badminton World has missed his world class play for more than 2 years now..
Coming into the Men's Singles French Open Semi's between Taufik and Lee Chong Wei, everyone would have thought that Lee Chong Wei would prove his World No.1 ranking by taking revenge from his defeat in the Macau Open against Taufik. Both players took a break from the Dutch Open to prepare themselves for this tournament.
Both players looked well prepared entering the competition and looking at the semi's match-up, it was an exciting match to watch. Some background lining up to the Semi's, Taufik has played 3 sets for all of his earlier rounds, and all of the matches were tough games for him. On the other side, Lee Chong Wei entered the Semi's by defeating all of his opponents in straight sets. This means in paper that Lee Chong Wei has a fresher legs coming to the Semis. On top of that, in recent years, Taufik is not known to have great stamina.
With all of these lined up for the Semi's most Malaysians were rooting for Chong Wei to take the Semis match. The game started well with Chong Wei taking the first game 21-16 as Chong Wei hit his form early in the match. Taufik knew he had to push the game to the next level by changing his style of play to a more aggressive style and he managed to do just that. He played some awesome sharp net plays and some really accurate smashes to catch Chong Wei off guard which led him to take the second set easily 21-14.
At this point, you can see two different class/standard of plays; the current World No. 1, Chong Wei and the former World No. 1, Taufik. Taufik showing to the world and the lucky French spectators that he's back in his Old Glory Playing days by playing one of his best badminton ever in the past 2 years. Each and every stroke of Taufiks had an intention/direction and he studied/anticipated every of Chong Wei strokes. Chong Wei had no answer to the mighty Taufik Hidayat! His smashes were easily returned, not just a normal return but there was one returned which STUNNED Chong Wei and MYSELF! In the 3rd and deciding set, Chong Wei had a 3/4 court opportunity to smash on the backhand side of the court which he did. Chong Wei smashed the shuttle as hard as he could cross court, to Taufik’s Backhand. As Chong Wei made the smash, he rushed forward like how anyone would anticipate a low return due to the speed of the smash. But to everyone amazement, Taufik moved his body to the backhand return and he pushed the shuttle right back to the baseline of Chong Wei's overhead and he caught Chong Wei as Chong Wei was moving to the front. As a badminton player, I have not seen such a return in ages as one need to be quick and one needs to have a strong wrist to make such a return and Taufik is the man!
On top of that there was another Taufik moment when he placed a net play for Chong Wei and Chong Wei anticipated the net play hence why he jumped forward to the net to push the shuttle to Taufik’s backhand while catching Taufik who was in the front of the net. Taufik being caught off position chased the shuttle with his back facing Chong Wei to retrieve the backhand shot which was already close to the floor. To everyone who plays badminton would only anticipate that the next shot Taufik would play would either go out, or be hanging at the front of the opponent’s court. Again, Taufik shows the world by actually driving the shuttle to Chong Wei's baseline forehand which caught Chong Wei by surprise.
Taufik took the 3rd game even easier than the 2nd by winning 21-12. There is a video download from simplybadminton's site to all those who have missed this great matchup [video 1; video 2]. This was a superb performance by Taufik and to me I think the only player who can take Lin Dan is the great Taufik Hidayat. You rarely see Taufik shows his emotions after winning but this time around, he was all smiles after beating Chong Wei. I was lucky to catch the game on Astro :) Hope you guys enjoy it too.. Taufik will be playing his old rival Peter Gade in the finals and this would be like an Old School Reunion for badminton!
Ciao da mao!