Jonatan Christie: Badminton's new rising star is ready to conquer the world and "Make Indonesia proud"

Indonesia's badminton pin-up boy is having the season of a lifetime and building for a tilt at the Tokyo 2020 gold medal.

Indonesian idol, rock-star shuttler, internet melter: Jonatan Christie is a viral hit.

Now he's out to topple badminton's world order.

This week's Indonesia Open (16-21 July) in Jakarta providing the perfect opportunity for the poster-boy and sixth seed a chance to prove his credentials on home soil.

Big names beaten by Jojo

21 years old and rising fast through the ranks, 'Jojo' has already beaten four of the world badminton's top five:

Kento Momota, Shi Yuqi, Chou Tien-chen, and Viktor Axelsen.

Add teammate, roommate, and rival Anthony Ginting to that list, and you get a good idea of what Christie is capable of.

2019 so far points to Christie being in the conversation for the coveted Olympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020.

These are 12 months that could hold a defining moment in his career.

Top ten for Christie

The talent is there, but Christie knows there's work to do.

In April, the then World No.11 talked about his lack of a big BWF Tour title:

"I know I still need to work on consistency and self-confidence if I am to win on tour," he told The Straits Times before the Singapore Open in April.

"Sometimes during the game, when you are down, it can be hard to have confidence. That is also why I'm training so hard to become better each day."

"I keep in my mind that someday, I will make Indonesia proud." - Jonatan Christie to Straits Times

Jakarta's world-beater defeated World No.1 Kento Momota and Denmark's Viktor Axelsen to reach the semi-finals of the Malaysian Open a week before that interview, only to lose to resurgent Rio 2016 champ Chen Long in the semi-finals.

Still, some very impressive victories.

But a week after beating Axelsen in the quarter-finals in Malaysia, he lost in the quarter finals in Singapore - to Axelsen.

Then Christie won the New Zealand Open at the start of May, and beat his good friend Anthony Ginting in the final of the Australian Open on 9 June 2019.

Now, a year out from Tokyo, he's World Tour Ranking number 2, and has climbed to 7th in the BWF World Rankings, one place above Ginting.

Still 22, Jojo is growing in confidence and experience that will help him become more consistent.

That's important both over the course of a tournament, and from tournament to tournament over an entire season.

And now comfortably installed among the top ten shuttlers on the planet, Christie is aiming up.

But can he break into the top 5?

Jonatan Christie: Playing style

Indonesia's badminton pin-up boy has style and swagger and brings it all to the court with him.

That combination of strength and speed, agile defence, anticipation, and lightning quickness around the court are a winning mix.

Then there's his smash.

So devastatingly powerful and accurate is it that he's been compared to the mythical 'King of the smash', Indonesia's heavily decorated badminton player Lim Swie King.

But individual techniques and talents are all enhanced by possibly the most potent weapon in his arsenal: passion.

Some say he's too emotional on the court, to the point where he's warned by referees for long celebrations between points.

Jojo denies talk of mind games:

"It's not intentional, it just happens. They are all talented players and I'm fortunate to be able to play against them. I just want to enjoy this journey," he said in April.

Harnessing all that passion and emotion will be key to his next step up into the world's top five.

Christie has the drive to be the best, born with that winning gene.

The Prodigy making a racquet

From an early age it was clear that Christie had a bright future in badminton.

Born in the capital Jakarta, originally he wanted to be a swimmer but his father "did not want my skin colour to become darker" and ushered his son away from the diving board to the badminton court.

At 15 Jonatan won his first senior title: the July 2013 Indonesia International Challenge, defeating compatriot Alamsyah Yunus - 11 years his senior - in straight sets: 21-17, 21-10.

In 2014 he fenced his way to the final again, but Korean veteran Lee Hyun-il ended chances of a remarkable repeat.

Christie didn't give up though, forcing the match into a 5-set thriller, an indication of the Indonesian's fighting spirit and competitive nature.

And much bigger things were just a shirt's throw away.

Christie goes Viral

Fast forward to the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games in front of his hometown crowd, after he had already shone at the Southeast Asian Games, winning 3 gold medals, honed his game, and grown enough to handle the pressure of home expectations.

When Christie stepped onto the court in the city of his birth, he was well aware that the last time an Indonesian shuttler had won the Asian Games in Indonesia was badminton royalty Taufik Hidayat in 2006.

Ranked 15th in the world at the time, Christie faced Chinese Taipei's Chou Tienchen in the final, an opponent ranked 6th in the world and heavily favoured to win.

It was tight, but Christie took the first set 21-18, before narrowly losing the second 20-22.

The tension in the air was cut by the wonderful swoosh and slash sounds that all badminton fans love as two top-class shuttlers do battle.

The rubber match went to Jojo, holding his nerve to win 21-15.

The crowd erupted, the young star took off his shirt and threw it to the fans.

It was a moment that made the internet melts.

A shirtless Jonatan Christie celebrates victory winning gold at 2018 Asian Games. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
A shirtless Jonatan Christie celebrates victory winning gold at 2018 Asian Games. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)A shirtless Jonatan Christie celebrates victory winning gold at 2018 Asian Games. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
Christie shakes with Chinese Taipei's Chou Tienchen after the final. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
Christie shakes with Chinese Taipei's Chou Tienchen after the final. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)Christie shakes with Chinese Taipei's Chou Tienchen after the final. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
Topless salute: Jonatan Christie celebrates. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
Topless salute: Jonatan Christie celebrates. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)Topless salute: Jonatan Christie celebrates. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

Jonatan Christie: Trending Topic

In predominantly Muslim Indonesia, Christie's celebration went viral. He was trending on Twitter.

Afterwards, when asked why he did it, he said, “I don’t know why, but since it made people happy, I just did it. It was spontaneous.”

Part of the passion and emotion that set him apart.

Since then Christie has become a fashion icon, the sponsors have formed orderly queues, and his Instagram posts regularly get over half a million likes.

But fame and rising fortunes haven't distracted him from what actually matters on the court.

2019 has been Jonatan Christie's best year yet, and all of Indonesia hopes that 2020 will be even better.

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