EXPECTATIONS ARE HIGH

HIDAYAT HAS TARGETS for each year. In 2004, it was the Olympic gold. In 2005, the world title. This year, the Thomas Cup Finals.-

The reigning Olympic and World champion Taufik Hidayat is the only badminton player to hold two prestigious titles at the same time. He could not add the All England title to his collection this January since he skipped the event because of his marriage to Armi Dianti Gumelar, the daughter of the National Sport Committee chairman Agum Gumelar.

However, Hidayat had no choice but to accompany the Indonesia team for the all-important Thomas Cup qualifiers in Jaipur. Although the 25-year-old lost two matches, Indonesia just about managed to qualify for the 12-team finals to be held in Japan this summer.

The temperamental Hidayat, who stayed away from the media in Jaipur, spoke to Sportstar. He answered questions with the help of International Badminton Federation's Geethanjali Lakshmayya, the Marketing and Communications Executive, who doubled up as a willing interpreter.

On his current form: I could not train to my liking for Thomas Cup as I was busy with my marriage in the first week of February. That was also the reason why I had to skip the All England in January. But I will get back into my game in time for the Finals.

On being the first man to hold the Olympic and World titles: I feel very happy and responsible at the same time. Now I have a reputation and I will have to work hard to live up to that. People back home expect a lot more from me and these expectations make my job that much more difficult.

On how he approaches the game: I have my targets for each year. In 2004, it was to win the Olympic gold. In 2005, the world title was the one on my mind. This year, the Thomas Cup Finals is equally important. My coach helps me in the build-up to any tournament. But if you look at the bigger picture, I think the game has helped build my character and personality.

On his favourite players: Denmark's Poul Erik-Hoyer Larsen was my favourite. He had a complete game. Among my contemporaries, China's Lin Dan and Denmark's Peter Gade are the ones I admire. In fact, two of my best matches have been against Peter Gade, in the 1999 All England final and the Singapore Open last year.

On winning the Olympic gold at Athens: This was clearly the biggest triumph of my career. Every player wants to win the Olympic gold. After the disappointment at Sydney (in 2000), I was glad I could put it all together much to the delight of my countrymen. I cannot forget the moment when I won the gold.

On his next important goal: It has to be winning the All England. I came close on two occasions. This year, I had to give it a miss but I am already waiting for the next edition. It is very important for me. Equally important for me is retaining the Olympic title in Beijing in 2008.

On the impact of the new 21-point system: I am not enjoying it. I am not for this change. I also spoke about it to a lot of other players from China and Denmark and none of them appreciate it. I think the game moves very fast now. Just too fast for my liking. It demands more concentration than before. In Thomas Cup, I could concentrate only 50 to 60 per cent and that showed in my results. But I'll get better. I know, I don't have much time before the Finals, but once I get back to Indonesia, I'll work a lot harder.

On his other interests: I love watching soccer and playing pool. I don't have any favourite soccer players though. I relax by listening to music.

RAKESH RAO