Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir haven’t been close to their best in recent months.
They haven’t won a match in the last three World Superseries events. This year began inauspiciously as they fell in the first round of their opening event, to China’s upcoming prospects Zheng Siwei and Li Yinhui. For a pair that’s been among the best Mixed Doubles combinations of the last few years, the signs aren’t bright, but Ahmad and Natsir are confident they can turn things around.
Natsir admits that their level has dipped and that they need to pull themselves back on track.
“As players it is common to be disappointed. We have been enjoying success for a good number of years but our performances have taken a hit lately. But that’s what sport is about. Every time we aimed to be champions and we thought it would be easy, we would look at other countries that also have good players. As players we can’t always be on top, always dominate, but we will use the experience and motivate ourselves to rise again.”
While the Indonesians still have a high ranking of No.2, what will bother them is the lack of momentum they might have leading up to Rio. Semi-finalists at the last Olympics, Ahmad and Natsir will be aware that Rio could be their last realistic chance of an Olympic medal as a pair, for Tontowi, the younger of the two, is 28 while Natsir is 30.
Ahmad states that they’re going to give it everything they have.
“We need to prepare both physically and mentally. I expect we will go all out in terms of our training: be physically ready and keep track of our nutrition as well. All of this to achieve our Olympic dream.”
Having suffered the agony of missing out on the World Championships final at home in Jakarta by a heartbeat, the Indonesians will try to iron out wrinkles in their game in the run-up to the Games. This includes not just training and match practice, but also finer aspects like communication.
“We have to be introspective and we have to make sure our communication improves: What does Tontowi want. What do I want. When we’re on court we need to be more comfortable with each other and to have the same target. With only half-a-year left, we hope we can perform to our fullest potential at the Olympics,” says Natsir, sounding the bugle for the pair’s medal campaign.