A look at the sport’s modern-day greats will confirm one thing — badminton is a game of speed. Quick reaction times and darting movements are vital if you want to make it as a badminton player. However, even among the sport’s speed demons, there are a handful of players who have carved a reputation for lighting-fast play. When we talk about speed that can rival The Pasadena Flash, I can’t think of any better examples than Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo!
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo captivated fans and fellow doubles players with their performances in many high-profile tournaments. The Indonesian pair bagged back-to-back titles at the prestigious and competitive All England in 2017 and 2018. Besides All-England titles, the duo won 19 World Tour titles, 10 Badminton World Federation (BWF) Superseries titles, and two Grand Prix titles. They are also the 2018 Asian Games Champions. Because of their achievements, the pair has bagged numerous accolades, including the 2017 and 2018 BWF Best Male Players of the Year Award. As heroes in their home country, they also won the Indonesia Athlete of the Year Award and Favorite Male Athletic Duo Award in 2018. With many of their momentous achievements taking place between 2016 and 2017, they clutched the world number one spot in the men’s doubles in 2017. Famous for their blinding speed and tactical play, the duo earned the moniker “Minions” for their mobility and height disadvantage relative to many men’s doubles players.
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo are on their way to becoming legends in the sport. Learn more about this Indonesian team’s early careers and men’s doubles achievements in this installment of Player Profile!
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Marcus Fernaldi Gideon’s Early Life
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon was born on March 9, 1991, in Jakarta, Indonesia. As a child, he participated in numerous sports, but with his father’s influence, he picked up badminton — from there, there was no turning back!
By the age of nine, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon displayed promise on the court, drawing the attention of a local club, PB Tangkas. Since his father was a badminton player himself, there was no shortage of support. As a result, he began winning local badminton tournaments.
Of course, every school-aged child had to go to school and do well. Gideon wasn’t the most academically inclined child. In his interview with the BWF, he disclosed that he had to choose between badminton and going to school. To nobody’s surprise, he dropped his school books for a racket and shuttlecock.
Four years into an early pro badminton career, Gideon received a scholarship from a school in Singapore. Recognizing the rare opportunity, his parents asked him to accept the scholarship. Gideon accepted and placed his badminton career on hold.
However, illness would punctuate his overseas studies. Returning to Indonesia, he also returned to badminton. In 2009, he won his first professional title at the 2009 Victorian International Future Series in Melbourne, Australia.
Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo’s Early Life
Five years after his future partner’s birth, Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo was born on August 2, 1996 in Banyuwangi, Indonesia, where he played badminton at the age of four. Like Gideon, he played with the encouragement of his father.
According to Sukamuljo, he began playing badminton because there was a small court near his home. The Indonesian superstar recollects how fascinated he was watching other people play. It didn’t take long before he jumped on the badminton bandwagon.
Besides picking up badminton with his father’s encouragement, Sukamuljo shared one more trait with his future partner — his dislike for school. Like Gideon, Sukamuljo was asked to choose between badminton and school — and we can all imagine what he picked!
Time passed, and Sukamuljo caught the attention of a local club, PB Djarum. There, he sharpened his skills and nurtured his dream of becoming a world badminton champion.
His early badminton games were less than impressive, as he lost consecutively. He lost in his first outing at the 2010 Indonesia International Challenge, and his results at the 2010 Indonesia Grand Prix Gold were equally dismal.
Luckily, one of the coaches at PB Djarum spotted his potential to be a doubles specialist. Experimenting, the coach had Sukamuljo compete in mixed and boy’s doubles. As a result, his results improved noticeably between 2012 and 2014.
2015: Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon’s Partnership and How They Became Badminton’s “Minions”
Between 2012 and 2014, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo played with different partners. In 2015, the two formed a partnership. The pairing was due to circumstance more than choice.
Sometime between 2014 and 2015, Sukamuljo played alongside Selvanus Geh. After the 2014 Dutch Open, Geh fell ill, forcing him to announce his retirement.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian national team coach Chafidz Yusuf had seen Gideon’s skills on the court. Seeing his potential, Yusuf paired him with Sukamuljo.
The two debuted as a men’s doubles team at the 2015 All England. Early on, it seemed that Yusuf came up with the winning combination as Gideon and Sukamuljo reached the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, the newly formed Indonesian duo lost to Denmark’s Mads Pieler Kolding and Mads Conrad-Petersen.
Gideon and Sukamuljo competed again less than a week later at the 2015 Swiss Open. This time, the pair made it as far as the semis but fell short to Malaysia’s Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong.
Unwilling to let defeat deter them, the pair went on to compete in several other tournaments. Gideon and Sukamuljo’s pairing began to show promise at the 2015 Chinese Taipei Open. At the tournament, they advanced to the finals for the first time. China’s team of Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan were waiting for them.
The finals ultimately went in favor of the Chinese duo, but fans noticed Gideon and Sukamuljo’s speed and reaction time throughout the tournament. Also, Gideon and Sukamuljo impressed fans with how much of a fight they put on despite being shorter than most of their opponents.
Their speed and height disadvantage earned them a new moniker. From that moment on, Gideon and Sukamuljo became badminton’s Minions — a reference to Gru’s Minions from the “Despicable Me” franchise.
After the Chinese Taipei Open, the duo set their sights on the 2015 Chinese Taipei Masters. This time, Gideon and Sukamuljo breezed through the men’s doubles event to reach the finals. In the finals, the pair faced Malaysia’s Thien How Hoon and Khim Wah Lim. Gideon and Sukamuljo defeated their Malaysian opponents in straight sets to win their first title.
Finding Form in 2016
Confident from their Chinese Taipei Masters victory, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo kicked off their 2016 campaign at the 2016 Malaysia Masters. At the tournament, they advanced to the finals to face Malaysians Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan. The match went three games. After the 54th minute, Gideon and Sukamuljo won, bagging their first Grand Prix title of 2016.
In March, the pair won their first Superseries title after defeating their compatriots Angga Pratama and Ricky Karandasuwardi at the 2016 India Open. The two teams met again later that year at the 2016 Australian Open. Like their first encounter, Gideon and Sukamljo were the better shuttlers, winning the tournament.
The medal haul didn’t stop there. In November, Gideon and Sukamuljo bagged another title victory at the 2016 China Open after beating the powerhouse Danish team of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen.
By the end of 2016, Gideon and Sukamuljo won three Superseries and two Grand Prix championships. Because of their achievements, they went from being regular unseeded pairs in tournaments to claiming the number two spot in the World Rankings.
2017 to 2018: Becoming World Number 1, Early Success on the World Tour
Gideon and Sukamuljo started their 2017 campaign with a showing at the 2017 All England. The duo dominated the men’s doubles tournament to reach the finals. In the finals, Gideon and Sukamuljo faced China’s Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen. In straight games, Gideon and Sukamuljo emerged victorious, winning their first All England title.
After winning the All England, Gideon and Sukamuljo brought their World Ranking score to 80531 points. Four days after the All England, they rose to the top of the World Rankings.
Confidence followed their rise to the top of the men’s doubles division. After March 2017, Gideon and Sukamuljo bagged back-to-back title finishes at the 2017 India Open and 2017 Malaysia Open. Months later, the World Number One duo bagged another Superseries victory at the Japan Open after beating Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko.
November and December were amazing months for badminton’s Minions as they chalked up a hat-trick of Superseries title victories. Between November 14 and December 13, 2017, Gideon and Sukamuljo won the China Open, Hong Kong Open, and Dubai Superseries Final.
In 2018, the Superseries Final champions embarked on their World Tour campaign. They opened up their World Tour title tab at the 2018 Indonesia Masters after beating Liu Yu Chen and Li Jun Hui in the finals.
From here, Gideon and Sukamuljo went on an undefeated nine-month streak in the World Tour circuit. The duo won five World Tour titles back to back, including another All England title!
A semifinal loss at the China Open broke the streak, but Gideon and Sukamuljo bounced back with an impressive title victory at the 2018 Denmark Open.
2019 to 2021: More World Tour Success
After dominating the World Tour during their 2018 run, Gideon and Sukamuljo kicked off their 2019 campaign with a bang. The duo won their first title of the year at the 2019 Malaysia Masters after defeating Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi.
The Minion medal marauding continued well into the middle of 2019. Between January and July 2019, Gideon and Sukamuljo won several World Tour titles, including the Indonesia Masters, Indonesia Open, and Japan Open.
They also went undefeated between October and November as they bagged back-to-back victories at the 2019 Denmark Open, French Open, and Fuzhou China Open.
In 2020, Gideon and Sukamuljo won the Indonesia Masters for the third year in a row. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions and a finals loss at the 2020 All England disrupted the Minions’ momentum.
The Indonesian duo and many other badminton players returned to full action in 2021 with restrictions in place. Unfortunately, Gideon and Sukamuljo lost in four of the tournaments they were in between March and October.
Fortunately, the duo shook off the quarantine cobwebs to win the 2021 HYLO Open. From here, they won the 2021 Indonesia Open after defeating Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi in the finals.
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo: Number 16 in the World Rankings but Still Number One for Many
The Indonesian superstars lost their World Number One spot on March 17, 2020. Nevertheless, the duo held on to the top spot for more than 128 weeks, making them one of the longest-reigning pairs in men’s doubles badminton history.
Will the Minions regain their spot atop the World Rankings? There’s only one way to find out. Stay tuned to the games and rankings!
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