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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Indonesians Favored in Badminton

The best badminton field to play in Russia has been assembled in Moscow's Olympic sports complex for this week's $60,000 Russian Open, which ends Sunday. It is the third year for the annual Grand Prix tournament, but the first visit by the Indonesian team, which produces most of the world's top players.

"Badminton for Indonesia is like soccer for Brazil," said Hadi Nazri, technical director of the Indonesian Badminton Federation and the team's manager in Moscow. "It is more than just a game; badminton is almost a religion."

Nazri said that almost a quarter of the Indonesia's approximately 150 million people regularly play badminton, and the country has 500,000 registered players, including the world's top male and female players, Alan Budi Kusuma and Susi Susanti, who won their country's first Olympic gold medals in 1992.

While the top pair are not competing this week, Indonesia can send up-and-coming players and still expect to win.

"Our top players just came back from the U.S. Open in Atlanta," said Nazri. "That was an important, pre-Olympic tournament, and the players are tired."

Indonesia is represented in Moscow by five men and three women, including Hendrawan, 23, the No. 2 seed among men, and Lydia Djaelawijaya, 20, the top seed on the women's side.

Hendrawan said after his opening match, an easy 15-2, 15-3 win over Russia's Nikolai Nikolaenko on Thursday, that he hopes to visit the Kremlin and Red Square, as well as winning the title.

Indonesia's development system is borrowed from the former East Bloc countries. "The country has 30 training centers for 18-and-under players, free of charge, where coaches are searching for talent," said Nazri. "The best players are brought to the main center in Djakarta, where they live year around."

Top players make about $10,000 per month and keep 80 per cent of that money for themselves, he said. Indonesia has a badminton tournament almost every month, including the annual national championship, said Nazri.

"Demand for tickets is high, and all the matches are on television."

In Moscow, there are plenty of empty seats, despite the fact there is no entrance fee, and the presence of all 32 Indonesian embassy staff members.

Play starts at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at the Olympic sports complex, 1 Olympiskii Prospect, ending with the mixed doubles finals at 6 p.m. The men's and women's singles finals start Sunday at noon and 1 p.m., respectively.