Badminton Life

Taufik Falls at First Hurdle

Even the most die-hard Taufik Hidayat fans knew that he is not the same player he was four years ago when he won Olympic gold in Athens.

And when he was struck down by dengue fever less than a month before the start of the Beijing Games, they knew he had an uphill task.

Even the Indonesian team managers were cautious about his chances days before the Games' opening ceremony.

To make matters worse, he was drawn against a tough opponent in Malaysia's Wong Choong Hann, the world number 17 who is making his last Olympic appearances and was determined to go out with a bang.

Wong certainly got his wish. Whatever else he does in the tournament, he will be remembered as the man who ended the hopes of the defending Olympic champion.

Wong scored a 21-19, 21-16 second-round victory over Taufik, the seventh seed, to advance to round of 16.

There, he will meet Taiwan's Hsieh Yu-hsing and will maintain high hopes of making it to the quarter-finals.

For Taufik, who has also probably played his last Olympics, the loss was taken in his stride, almost shrugging his shoulders at the inevitability of it all.

"I did not play my best today," said the 26-year-old. "I'm not feeling good after my dengue. He played better than me today. I am not 100 per cent, but I am not going to use that as an excuse."

He did have his chances though against his 31-year-old opponent. He led 19-18 in the first game before losing three straight points.

Then, in the second game, he recovered from a 12-8 deficit to lead by one point before Wong went on a 6-1 spree that killed off the Indonesian's hopes.

It was also sweet revenge for Wong, who was beaten by Taufik in the last 16 of the Athens Games four years ago.

"I'm very satisfied with my performance today and I controlled the match very well," he said. "I just concentrate on my own game. Taufik tried his best to get points. I don't think there is too much difference between us today."

Also making it through to the last 16 was China's All England champion Chen Jin, the fourth seed who beat New Zealand's John Moody 21-9, 21-11.

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