ndonesia is home to some of the best talents in badminton. Nevertheless, few have impacted fans the way Liliyana Natsir has. Since debuting in 2003, Liliyana Natsir has captivated and thrilled badminton fans with her skills and versatility on the court.
Born on September 9, 1985, Liliyana Natsir is an Indonesian doubles badminton player from Manado, Indonesia. She specializes in mixed doubles, winning 23 Badminton World Federation (BWF) Super Series titles and 15 Grand Prix titles. She’s also an Olympic gold medalist in the mixed doubles. She and Tontowi Ahmad were the first Indonesian mixed pair to bag Olympic gold. Fans know Liliyana Natsir for her All-England hat-trick with Tontowi Ahmad and for having the most BWF World Championship titles in mixed doubles. The BWF dubbed her the most popular badminton player of the 2010s. In 2019, Liliyana Natsir announced her retirement following the Daihatsu Indonesia Masters. She became part of the BWF Hall of Fame on June 18, 2022.
Liliyana Natsir may very well be the paragon of mixed doubles badminton with her accolades and accomplishments. Join me as we take a look at Liliyana Natsir’s career and achievements!
Early Life and Junior Career
Liliyana Natsir was born on September 9, 1985 in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Liliyana is the daughter of Beno Natsir and Olly Maramis.
Liliyana Natsir was an active child who dreamed of a career in sports. When she turned nine, she discovered badminton and continued to excel at the sport. She excelled so much that she began competing a year after she first picked up a racket, playing in her first national tournament when she was 10.
When she turned 13, she left her hometown to pursue badminton in Jakarta. She joined a youth club to find the right training environment, which opened many doors to competitions.
Four years after moving to Jakarta, Liliyana Natsir joined the Indonesian National Badminton Team at age 17. Despite her young age, Natsir showed great potential and impressed her coaches and peers. Her performances on the team made her one of the team’s top picks for the 2002 Asian Junior Badminton Championships.
At the 2002 Asian Junior Badminton Championships, Liliyana Natsir played in the mixed doubles event paired with the young Markis Kido.
Liliyana Natsir and Markis Kido made it to the finals, facing China’s Cao Chen and Rong Lu. Natsir and Kido defeated their opponents, winning gold in the mixed doubles event. It was Liliyana Natsir’s first mixed doubles gold medal.
With her partner Markis Kido, Liliyana Natsir also played in the mixed doubles event of the 2002 World Junior Championships. Liliyana Natsir then played in the girl’s doubles event, where she partnered with Devi Sukma Wijaya.
Unfortunately, Natsir couldn’t duplicate her success at the Asian Junior Championships. Liliyana Natsir took bronze in the mixed and girl’s doubles events, losing to Chinese opponents in both events.
Indonesian mixed doubles coach Richard Mainaky took notice of Natsir’s skills as a doubles badminton player. For this reason, he paired her with Eny Erlangga for women’s doubles events. Natsir and Erlangga debuted at the 2003 South East Asian Games.
The 2003 SEA Games were Liliyana Natsir’s senior debut. At the tournament, she and her partner Erlangga performed impressively, reaching the finals. They faced their teammates, Lita Nurlita and Jo Novita, in the finals of the women’s doubles event. They lost the first and third games.
The loss meant that Natsir and Erlangga had to settle for silver. Nevertheless, it was an excellent start to Liliyana Natsir’s senior career.
Liliyana Natsir’s Partnership with Nova Widianto
Seeing Liliyana Natsir’s front-court prowess, Richard Mainaky thought she’d be the perfect partner for a young and up-and-coming Nova Widianto. Widianto and Natsir were paired in 2004, debuting at the China Open later that year. The duo suffered elimination early at the tournament.
The early-round elimination at the China Open didn’t deter Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto from competing at the 2004 Singapore Open. Reaching the finals, the Indonesian duo had their sights set on the title. In their way were Malaysia’s Pei Tty Wong and Kien Keat Koo.
Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto dominated Wong and Koo in the first game 15 – 1 and the second 15 – 4. Not only did Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto win their first gold medal, they also showed how dominant they could be on the court. The pair carried this momentum into 2005.
2005 was the pair’s breakout year as they bagged three major titles — the BWF World Championship, the Indonesia Open, and the SEA Games.
Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto opened their 2005 gold medal campaign with a victory at the BWF World Championship.
There, Natsir and Widianto defeated China’s Xie Zhongbo and Zhang Yawen. Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto would defend their title two years later at the 2007 BWF World Championships.
The up-and-coming Indonesian duo also won their first Indonesian Open in 2005. At the 2005 Indonesian Open, Natsir and Widianto defeated their teammates Anggun Nugroho and Yunita Tetty. The victory brought Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto their second BWF Grand Prix title.
After the 2005 Indonesia Open, Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto competed at the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines. In the finals, Natsir and Widianto once again faced Anggun Nugroho and Yunita Tetty. Just like in the Indonesian Open, Natsir and Widianto defeated their compatriots, winning their first SEA Games title.
Post-2005 Accolades and Split
Between 2005 and 2010, Liliyana Natsir had a successful run with Nova Widianto, winning two World Championship titles, five BWF Super Series titles, and six Grand Prix titles. The pair also bagged two SEA Games medals, a World Cup in 2006, and one Asian Championship.
Liliyana Natsir also qualified for the Olympics with Widianto, competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The pair fought to a silver medal finish — an impressive feat for Natsir, given that it was her first Olympic outing.
As of 2010, the pair had won more titles than any other mixed pair. On September 2, 2010, Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto snatched the world number one spot, finally getting the recognition they deserved.
However, like all good things, the partnership of Natsir and Widianto came to an end. In 2010, Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto played their final match at the 2010 Japan Super Series. After their quick elimination at the tournament, the two players parted ways, ending one of the most powerful partnerships in badminton.
A Flying Start for Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad
In the middle of 2010, Liliyana Natsir and her coach Richard Mainaky sought a younger player that would mesh well with Natsir. At the time, Tontowi Ahmad was making a name for himself in the mixed doubles division. Seeing Ahmad’s potential, Mainaky paired him with Liliyana Natsir.
Natsir and Ahmad debuted at the 2010 Indonesia Grand Prix Gold. In their debut outing, the newly formed pair dominated the mixed doubles event, beating Markis Kido and Lita Nurlita in the finals. The victory gave the duo their first Grand Prix title.
In 2011, Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad chalked up a hat-trick of victories from May to June. On May 1, 2011, the pair emerged victorious at the 2011 India Open as they defeated their teammates Fran Kurniawan and Pia Zebadiah Bernadet.
Natsir and Ahmad followed up their India Open win with an impressive performance at the 2011 Malaysia Open Grand Prix. Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad defeated Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying in the finals to snatch gold. Their 2011 haul didn’t stop in Alor Setar, Malaysia; they continued on to capture another Super Series win at the Singapore Open that same year.
Towards the end of 2011, Natsir and Ahmad set their sights on the 2011 SEA Games. In the finals, they displayed their dominance as they beat Thailand’s Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thungthongkam in straight sets. Natsir and Ahmad snatched their first SEA Games title.
In their debut year alone, Natsir and Ahmad captured seven titles — to say that they were off to a good start would be a gross understatement.
Liliyana Natsir’s Olympic Success
The Olympics is a dream for every badminton player. Not only did Liliyana Natsir compete in the Olympics. But she did it three times and won a gold medal in one of them.
Liliyana Natsir first represented Indonesia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Then paired with Nova Widianto, Liliyana Natsir made it as far as the finals in her Olympic debut. In the finals, she and Widianto faced the formidable pair of South Korean doubles master Lee Yong Dae and his partner Lee Hyo Jung.
Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto lost the finals match, getting silver. Despite the loss, the 2008 Olympic silver medal represented a significant achievement for the debuting Liliyana Natsir.
Natsir returned at the 2012 London Olympics. By this time, Tontowi Ahmad was already her partner. Despite riding the momentum of their 2010 and 2011 title victories, they lost in the mixed doubles elimination round. Their defeat came at the hands of Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen.
Hungry for redemption, Natsir returned with Ahmad at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The duo’s desire for gold was palpable throughout the tournament as they blew through their competition to reach the finals. Reaching the finals, they faced Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying again. Easily in straight sets, Natsir and Ahmad bested their Malaysian opponents. The victory propelled Natsir to glory, and she became the first Indonesian female player to bag Olympic gold in 14 years!
Liliyana Natsir’s BWF World Championship Record
Natsir won the World Championships four times, twice with Nova Widianto and twice with Tontowi Ahmad.
At the 2005 BWF World Championships, Natsir and Widianto defeated China’s Xie Zhongbo and Zhang Yawen in the finals. The victory brought the Indonesian pair their first World Championship title.
Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto returned at the 2007 BWF World Championships. Once again, they showed dominance throughout the tournament. In the finals, they faced China’s Zheng Bo and Gao Ling. Natsir and Widianto proved to be too skilled for their opponents, winning the finals match in straight sets.
Liliyana returned with Tontowi Ahmad in the 2013 BWF World Championships. It was here where they defeated hometown favorites, Xu Chen and Ma Jin. The victory gave Natsir and Ahmad their first BWF World Championship title as a mixed doubles pair. For Natsir, it was already her third World Championship title.
Natsir won her fourth World Championship with Ahmad at the 2017 BWF World Championships. In the finals, they defeated China’s Zheng Si Wei and Chen Qing Chen after an hour-long match.
In total, Natsir has four BWF World Championships under her belt — the most number of titles for any mixed doubles player in history!
The All England Hat-Trick
Liliyana Natsir, together with Tontowi Ahmad, is a three-time All England Open Badminton Champion. Besides the number of All England titles under their belt, Natsir and Ahmad held the titles for three consecutive years.
Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad won their first All England title in 2012 after defeating Denmark’s Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Ryter Juhl. Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad returned at the 2013 All England Open to defend their title.
In the 2013 All England Open finals, they faced China’s Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei. Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei were one of the most formidable pairs in 2013. Nevertheless, Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad defeated their Chinese opponents in straight sets.
Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad defended their title again at the 2014 All England Open. Once again, Natsir and Ahmad faced Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei. The results this time were no different, as Natsir and Ahmad defeated their opponents again in straight sets.
Retirement and Induction Into the BWF Hall of Fame
A year after snatching the world number one spot with Ahmad, Liliyana Natsir announced her retirement. She officially bid farewell to badminton in 2019, with the Daihatsu Indonesia Masters as her final tournament. Her retirement was the curtain call to an illustrious 16-year career. In an interview with BWF TV, she expressed how happy she was about her career and achievements.
In 2022, Liliyana Natsir became part of the BWF Hall of Fame.
Liliyana Natsir — A Legend in Mixed Doubles Badminton
Dominance on the court and powerful consistency color the tapestry that is Liliyana Natsir’s illustrious career. With more titles than many mixed doubles players during her heyday, her status as a legend is more than deserved.
Liliyana Natsir will forever be remembered as being the epitome of mixed doubles badminton.
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