Indonesia's Anthony Ginting - Much more than badminton's 'giantkiller'
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting is much more than his nickname suggests: 'Badminton's giantkiller' has set his sights on a throne of his own.
And he doesn't care who gets in his way.
The 22-year-old shuttler is making a habit of beating world and Olympic champions in his meteoric rise to the top of the sport.
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting: a continuous rise
When he beat reigning Olympic champion Chen Long at the China Open in 2018, Ginting was just continuing an established tradition.
Japan's reigning world champ Kento Momota fell to Ginting in the final.
The boy born on the Indonesian island of Java became the man who took down three world champions in three days to win the 2018 China Open.
Now in 2019, Ginting is looking good with just a year to go to the Olympic Games.
But all the signs were there early on that he was a special talent.
Youth Olympics Podium
Indonesia's star in the making reached the podium at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing 2014, battling his way to the bronze medal final and winning in straight games 21–17, 21–16 against India's Aditya Joshi.
In the same year Ginting claimed third place at the world juniors in Malaysia, again taking his opponent down in straight sets, 19-21, 15-21, versus China's Shi Yuqi.
Anthony Ginting's winning formula
You could see a style emerging already in his junior days.
Tenacious, athletic, aggressive in attack, relentless in defence, Ginting has built a game on strategy and agility, and as he's matured, he's now coming into matches better-prepared, both mentally and physically.
Just ask Chen Long.
When he took just 42 minutes to defeat the Rio 2016 champ 21-8, 21-19, in April 2019 in the quarter finals of the Singapore Open, it was his 6th victory in 9 match-ups with the Chinese champion.
Ginting was more than happy to give away his secret to success:
“Similar to other players when the head-to-head is in your favour, your confidence will be there as you pretty much know how the other player plays," he explained.
"I also review my previous matches to regain my memory and the strategy that I used before,” said Ginting.
Chen Long was less talkative: "Even Olympic champions lose sometimes".
But it gave the world a glimpse at Ginting's winning formula: confidence, strategy, and hard work.
The boy destined to become a world beater had humble beginnings.
Born the fourth of five children in Cimahi, West Java, about 3 hours drive from the capital Jakarta, Ginting's father introduced him to the sport.
While his brothers preferred basketball and taekwondo, badminton was destiny for Anthony.
"My father used to take me to play badminton with his friends in Bandung," he told the Jakarta Post.
"The badminton court they used was also used by SGS badminton club," he continued, "and one of the coaches saw me play and asked my father whether he could take me on as a trainee."
His father was happy to say yes, and a star was born.
"I only started to take part in tournaments at around 9 years old, two years later I was scouted."
At 18 he surprised everyone by reaching the quarter finals of the Indonesian Open, and suddenly everyone wanted to know the name of this racket-wielding wonder boy.
That same year he was called up to train with the senior national team.
The PB SGS PLN club that a young Ginting joined was also home to his hero.
2004 Olympic gold medallist Taufik Hidayat began his career there and Anthony aimed to emulate Hidayat's playing style as much as his success.
"I used to watch him play on TV. With a racket in hand, I would try to copy his movements," said a young Anthony.
Social media star
But being the best takes hard work, practice and training. Lots of it.
Indonesia's Olympic champ had some words of warning for his fellow Javanese shuttler in March after Ginting was knocked out in the first round of the 2019 All England tournament.
The master warned young guns Ginting and his Indonesian teammate Jonatan Christie to maintain their focus:
"I hope that with their busy activities off the court, they are still prioritising training," Taufik said to the Java Post, "outside activities are only additional, and shouldn't interfere with performance on the field."
The life of a modern badminton star in the world's 4th most populous country can be demanding and distractions are everywhere.
Ginting has 765,000+ followers on Instagram and is much in demand.
Yes, he can sing too!
One advertisement on his Instagram page has over 160k views and almost 50k likes making him hot property for marketers.
His badminton career may be just beginning but could he make the step into acting afterwards?
Words of advice for Anthony
But Hidayat maintains that focus is key in a sport so competitive that victory and defeat are decided by the finest of margins.
"From the moment they threw themselves into badminton, they committed to being athletes," said Indonesia's much loved Olympic champ.
"They must look at themselves and say: 'I am an athlete, I am not an artist, not an entrepreneur. I'm an athlete.' And take responsibility as an athlete."
Advice that Ginting, it seems, will heed most from his hero.
A country devoted to badminton
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting's boyhood dream was to follow in Hidayat's footsteps and bring joy to a country of 264 million people that has a passion for badminton bordering on obsession.
But what was once a dream has now become an objective for Ginting.
He knows better than anyone what Olympic success means at home.
In a diverse and multicultural land of over 700 languages and a thousand cultures, one sport unites the country: badminton.
It is a long-term love affair interwoven into Olympic and Indonesian history.
Indonesia, land of badminton
Badminton was only granted Olympic status at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and Indonesia's badminton queen, Susanti, became Indonesia’s first-ever Olympic gold-medallist.
Two hours later, her fiancé (now husband) Alan Budi Kusuma won the men’s singles title.
Imagine what the reaction was like at home.
This golden couple went viral before going viral was even a thing, rock-star status doesn't do it justice.
Now, 27 years later, with Tokyo 2020 next up on the Olympic calendar, Indonesia has won 7 Olympic gold medals.
And all 7 are in badminton.
Ginting next in line?
It's been a wild ride for Anthony Ginting, but his greatest challenge is yet to come.
Indonesia's great hope has already proven that he can beat the best, but can he be the best on sport's greatest stage?
Tokyo 2020 will tell all.
The crown prince of national badminton knows what a gold medal at Tokyo would mean.
Nothing less than Indonesian sporting immortality.