World champion men's doubles pair, Mohd Ahsan (2nd right) and Hendra Setiawan (right) warm down after a training session for the Malaysian Open badminton championship beginning on Wednesday at Bukit Jalil. - SHAARI CHEMAT/The Star
BUKIT JALIL: The Malaysian Open will always be memorable for reigning men’s doubles world champions Hendra Setiawan-Mohd Ahsan of Indonesia.
It was here a year ago that their new partnership took flight as the unseeded pair won the men’s doubles title in their first tournament together at the Putra Stadium.
And they haven’t looked back, since.
The duo went on to win three Super Series titles in Indonesia, Singapore and Japan and also came out tops in two world events – the World Championships in Guangzhou and the BWF World Super Series in Kuala Lumpur.
The world No. 1 are now back for more.
Hendra, who ended a successful partnership with Markis Kido after the London Olympic Games in 2012, said that he and Ahsan are motivated to continue to excel this year.
“It all began here for us ... so, it is good to be back in KL,” said the soft-spoken Hendra, who is also the brother-in-law of Malaysia’s national coach, Hendrawan.
“Ahsan and I enjoyed a good 2013. We hope to continue in the same vein and, hopefully, soar even higher this year.
“Our immediate goal is to defend our Malaysian Open title and then go for our first All-England crown. We even skipped the Korean Open (which ended on Sunday) to fully prepare for the challenge here.”
Hendra and Ahsan also have something else to motivate them. Hendra is set to become a father in March while Ahsan became a father last week.
“That (becoming fathers) is also extra motivation for us to do well now ... it has given us a fresh challenge.”
Hendra is aware that, to reign supreme this year, they will have to be wary of the threat posed by South Koreans Lee Yong-dae-Yoo Yeon-seong and China’s All-England champions Liu Xiaolong-Qiu Zihan.
“We have not beaten these pairs. We lost to the Koreans three times last year ... we must find a way to stop them,” said Hendra.
In the Malaysian Open, which starts on Wednesday, the top seeds have a tricky first round match against England’s Chris Adcock-Andrew Ellis. The others in their half are South Koreans Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang; Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong; China’s Cai Yun-Liu Cheng, Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan and Chai Biao-Hong Wei; and Indonesia’s Markis-Gideon Markus Fernaldi.
Reigning Korean Open champions Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark are in the lower half of the draw with Yong-dae-Yeon-seong; Xiaolong-Zihan; and Malaysians Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem, Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong.