Badminton: Olympic hero Hidayat bids an emotional farewell

Indonesia's former Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat bid an emotional farewell Wednesday to a colourful career that made him one of badminton's biggest stars in front of a roaring home crowd.

With hundreds of fans cheering "Taufik can" and waving banners that read "Legend", the 31-year-old played his final professional match at the Indonesia Open, a tournament that he has won six times.

While the first-round match ended with his defeat to India's Sai Praneeth and an early exit from the tournament, Hidayat had not expected to go far against a tough field and still walked off the court a hero to his fans.

"What's really difficult is leaving badminton, a sport I have known for the past 25 years, 18 years as a professional player," an emotional Hidayat told reporters after the game.

Hidayat, once notorious as the bad boy of badminton who was sometimes compared to outspoken tennis great John McEnroe, showed a much softer side as he prepared to hang up his racket.

"Henceforth, I will focus on my family," he said at the post-match press conference, with his young daughter sitting at his side.

He did however admit to being disappointed at losing to Praneeth -- ranked 20 places below him -- and said he hoped the public would not "judge me only in this tournament".

Hidayat won the first set of the match, which was delayed by several hours, 21-15 with some strong backhand shots and good play at the net.

But he began to flag in the second set against an opponent 11 years his junior, and went on to lose the set 12-21. By the final set, Hidayat's shots were failing to pass the net, and Praneeth won it 21-17.

The defeat will come as no surprise, as Hidayat had failed to clinch major titles for several years. His early exit from the tournament is unlikely to overshadow a career that made him into a sporting icon in his home country.

With a distinctive, languid style that made the fast-paced game look effortless, he won Indonesia's first Olympic gold medal at Athens in 2004, famously weeping when he received it, and was crowned world champion in 2005.

But he also had his fair share of controversies during his career.

He once split from the Indonesian Badminton Association and based himself in Singapore, and on one occasion was ordered off the courts by security staff after a stand-off with officials at the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.

Hidayat reportedly attacked a spectator at the 2001 national championships, and he walked out of a match during the 2002 Asian Games -- which he later won -- in a dispute over line-judging.

In 2006, the reigning Olympic champion again stormed out of a match, with arch-rival Lin Dan in Hong Kong, after complaining about line-judging.

There was a major upset in another match at the Indonesia Open on Wednesday, when unseeded Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia thrashed world number two Chen Long of China in straight sets 21-11, 21-18 in under 40 minutes.

The Indonesia Open runs until Sunday in Jakarta with prize money of $700,000 across all categories. Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, the world number one, is the favourite.