Vittinghus & Istora: A Special Relationship

A long-running relationship ended in the first round of the KAPAL API GROUP Indonesia Open 2023, with Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus’ final on-court appearance at the Istora Senayan last month.

The love affair had to end sometime.

And 15 years after he made his debut at the Indonesia Open in 2008, Vittinghus waved goodbye. Fittingly, it was on Court 1, against home favourite Anthony Sinisuka Ginting.

Few overseas players have had the kind of relationship that Vittinghus has had with Indonesia, and that at the world’s most famous badminton venue. This is where berserk fans shower their love on players, both homegrown and from abroad. Vittinghus has felt the love for a decade and a half.

Vittinghus at his first Indonesia Open in 2008.

“When I came here in 2008, I was literally a nobody in the sport,” said Vittinghus, who was in tears after the match. “I even lost in qualifying. And I still felt the same kind of support. Of course, there’s a few more that shouting now that I’m more known. But you still feel the same kind of passion for the sport and passion for every single player. I’ve felt that since 2008. And today, I felt the same like it’s just amazing every single time and you really need to experience it to really understand.”

While the Istora didn’t host every single Indonesia Open – in 2021 it was held in Bali – the venue has hosted most of the country’s flagship event, besides three World Championships (1980, 1989, 2015), and major team championships.

“I played 15 straight Indonesia Opens and six Indonesia Masters,” says Vittinghus. “So I’ve been here more than 20 times. So of course it’s a very special place for me. I think it’s the place I played the most in my career. So I’m sad I’m not coming back.

“The fans here are more passionate than anywhere in the world. It’s just the home of badminton and I’m a true badminton lover. So this is the best place you can play. A lot of kids dream of playing in Istora Senayan just once, and I played in it 18 or 19 times I think. I have nothing to complain about.”

An emotional moment for Vittinghus after his last match at the Istora.

Vittinghus’ connect with Istora dates back even further, when, as an aspiring player, he’d watch the Thomas Cup 2004 on video.

“I used to have this DVD from the Thomas Cup Finals (2004), when Denmark lost the final to China. I used to watch that DVD a hundred times and dreamt about playing in this arena. It’s just so special. It has so much history. And every time I come here, it’s lived up to the hype and the expectations.”

And while the Dane has had several memorable performances at the Istora, making the quarterfinals thrice, his favourite memory is of sitting in the coach’s chair.

“I once coached Peter Gade when he played the final (2011) against Lee Chong Wei. And the atmosphere was out of this world. So I would actually say that’s even a better memory because of the atmosphere. And I think that the atmosphere is what makes this arena so special.”

Having announced that this would be his last year, Vittinghus knew the 2023 edition would be his final appearance at the Istora.

“Very emotional,” he admitted. “I was even crying a little bit during warmup. But I managed to control my emotions and played a decent level. After the match I had to cry a little bit more. But that’s fine, it shows that it means a lot to me.”

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