For someone who is an Asian Games gold medallist, Jonatan Christie’s Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open title yesterday was – oddly enough – his first World Tour title.
The New Zealand Open was the first event in the qualifying period for Tokyo 2020. Only two players per member association will make it to Tokyo, and Sunday’s win will provide a head start over his compatriots. A more immediate payoff is the effect of the ranking points on a high seeding at the upcoming TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019.
“This is the perfect start to Olympic qualifying for me,” said Christie, following his 21-12 21-13 defeat of Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long.
The Indonesian has been in a few other finals, but had never quite stepped over the final barrier until the Asian Games. At the Thailand Open 2017, then a Grand Prix Gold event, he fell to Sai Praneeth, and a few months later, he was in his first Superseries final, at the Korea Open where he couldn’t get past compatriot Anthony Ginting.
Last year began uneventfully before he reached the New Zealand Open final, where he lost to Lin Dan in straight games. A first round defeat at the World Championships followed, but then, against the run of form came a sensational week at the Asian Games, which culminated in him winning his biggest title – in front of his home crowd.
This season has seen him play at a high level on a more consistent basis, starting with a semifinal at the Indonesia Masters, another semifinal at the Malaysia Open – where he beat Kento Momota and Viktor Axelsen on consecutive days – and a quarterfinal at the Singapore Open.
On his day, the attacking Indonesian can be quite a sight – an example would be his 21-6 second game pulverising of World Tour Finals champion Shi Yuqi at the Indonesia Masters – but he will be hoping to string it together over longer periods.
The New Zealand Open victory therefore comes at the right time, when he is seeking to consolidate his gains.
“I’m very excited with this being my first time as champion on the HSBC BWF World Tour at the Super 300 level. I now hope to be champion at the Super 500, Super 750 and maybe Super 1000 level,” said Christie.
And with the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 coming up, Indonesian fans will hope Christie can provide the thrust in men’s singles to help the team capture its first title since 1989.