Ahmad and Natsir

Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir became the only players to make a successful defence of a title at an Yonex All England Open championships full of surprises when they hung on to the mixed doubles title which yesterday had been slipping away.

Now though, after coming back from a large deficit in the semi-finals, the Indonesians were on top from the start and never looked back during a 21-11, 21-17 win over Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan, the former champions, in the final.

This left the Chinese with just three titles, having been presented with much sterner and better developing competition than they had four years ago when they won the lot.

It also left Zhao Yunlei, who started the day with a chance of being the only player to win two titles – in the way in which she had become the first badminton player to win two Olympic golds in the same Games – with two runners-up medals instead.

Gone were the uncertainties  which had preyed upon Ahmad and Natsir against their compatriots Markis Kido and Pia Zebadiah.

They went ahead from the start and played with the confidence of champions whose memories were still fresh from the experience. They were unorthodox, perceptive and very good in attack.

Natsir was prepared to carry some of the attacking burden from the back, still not a commonplace with women in mixed doubles, but it was at the net and in mid-court where she was superb.

Ahmad had a few moments of mistakes but more often he was able to impose his heavy smash on anything short or loose.

Zhao and Zhang got back from 4-10 to 12-14 in the second game, courtesy of some moments of inspiration from Zhao, but after that the Indonesians hurtled away towards victory.

“I will learn the lessons from this and we will learn from the experience and prepare for the next games,” said Zhao. “It has been a good day for China as we have won a lot of other competitions.

“We are disappointed to miss out on this competition but we will learn from it,” she said with a sincere-sounding version of the required modesty

The finish of the match – and of the tournament – was an Ahmad smash which hit the floor, triggering the release of screams, balloons and other celebrations which threatened to rattle the roof.

“You don’t hear the crowd when you are playing,” said Natsir, which sounded amazing, “but when we won it was incredible to hear them support us.”