A delectable exhibition of deceptive badminton for the purists to delight in; a first HSBC BWF World Tour Super 500 title for Gregoria Mariska Tunjung.
With her Kumamoto Masters Japan 2023 victory over Chen Yu Fei, Tunjung became the first Indonesian women’s singles player to win a title of this level since the advent of the Superseries in 2007. Just as significantly, it signalled that the gifted competitor is now a genuine title contender at the highest level. Time will tell if she can win the big titles consistently, but for now the signs are good.
The surprise was that it had taken her so long, for Tunjung has always had the skill. But with frequent first or second round exits through her first few years at the elite level, the question was of physicality and consistency and doggedness, in maintaining a high level not only throughout a match, but throughout a tournament. That is an aspect she has become increasingly better at over the last few months – and when she’d finally nailed the Super 500 title, there were no exaggerated emotions, just quiet celebration. It was as if she already knew she belonged.
The turnaround was first evident last June, when she beat Akane Yamaguchi in the first round of the Malaysia Open and repeated that performance the next week at the Malaysia Masters, where she made the semifinals.
Since then Tunjung has been on a steady upward curve. After a final at the Australian Open, she beat Chen Yu Fei at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2022. Victories over top 10 players have become more frequent; in March she beat Carolina Marin and Pusarla V Sindhu on successive days for the Madrid Spain Masters 2023 title.
On Sunday she left no less a player than Chen Yu Fei constantly chasing the shuttle. The held shots, the wrong-footing, combined with precision winners and athletic retrievals left Chen with no gaps to exploit. Chen folded in the second game, winning only one of the last 11 points.
“I’m grateful for the win today, and honestly, I can’t find the words to express my feelings right now. But of course, this win wouldn’t be possible without the people who have supported me because, as we know, in the last few years, I haven’t been in the best of form, so I’m really glad I get to achieve this moment with the support of so many people,” said the champion.
“I am satisfied — but maybe satisfied isn’t the correct word — I am happy that today I could win against her. This is a big win for me. But my target doesn’t stop here. I am going to continue to work hard for the higher tournaments in the future as well.”
Having beaten nearly every top player (twice this year she has beaten He Bing Jiao, Pusarla, Marin and Beiwen Zhang, besides Yamaguchi, Chen Yu Fei, Wang Zhi Yi and Han Yue), and with her first Super 500 title, Tunjung has finally checked in.