Ending a tumultuous two years since his last title, Sony Dwi Kuncoro showed he still had the heart of a champion by winning the men’s singles title at the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold on Sunday.
Sony, currently ranked 65th in the world, claimed his first title since winning the 2010 Singapore Open Super Series with a 21-17, 21-14 defeat of Chinese shuttler Chen Yuekun in Bangkok.
“I’m starting to regain my confidence and all my body parts have been working well without pain,” Sony said after defeating Chen. “I’ve been working hard for this win. Now I believe I can fight my way back to the top.”
It was a much-needed breakthrough for the 27-year-old who was once hailed as the heir to Indonesian superstar Taufik Hidayat but ended up slumping to a career low after suffering a catalogue of injuries — back, wrist and ankle — in the last 24 months.
Sony even dropped to No. 115 in the world rankings in 2011.
But just as fans and pundits thought his career was over, Sony proved that he still had the skill and mentality to make waves in the badminton world.
He didn’t start the year well, losing in the first rounds of German Open and the Swiss Open before falling to compatriot Alamsyah Yunus in the second round of the Australia Open.
But Sony started to get his groove back in April at the Axiata Cup, where he helped Indonesia’s Garuda team win the sport’s largest purse.
One month later, he reached the final of Malaysia Open GP Gold before losing 21-17, 8-21, 21-10 to world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in Kuala Lumpur.
In Thailand, Sony stunned world No. 2 Lin Dan 21-17, 21-16 in Saturday’s semifinals. It was only his second victory over the Chinese star in 11 duels with him since the 2003 Malaysia Open.
Sony still has a long way to go to rejoin the ranks of his country’s elite shuttlers, with youngsters such as Tommy Sugiarto (world No. 18), Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (21), Alamsyah (28) and Andre Kurniawan Tedjono (48) ahead of him.
But he will have a chance to make a statement when the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier starts on Wednesday in Jakarta.