KUALA LUMPUR: The Japan Open next week is one that Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will cherish as it’s one of the few tournaments they are likely to play together.
The writing is already on the wall for the pair as a final decision to split them will be officially announced at the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) exco meeting on Wednesday.
They are likely to be given a chance to play together in a few more tournaments after the Japan Open but their turbulent seven-year partnership is set to come to an end by December.
The duo, who first paired up in late 2006, have won several major titles, including the 2006 Asian Games gold and the 2007 All-England crown. They also reached the final of the 2010 World Championships but, for the last two years, have struggled with inconsistency.
It is learnt that Boon Heong will team up with Goh V Shem while Kien Keat may either be paired up with Lim Khim Wah or with another youngster.
While the decision will be a bitter pill for them to swallow, the duo will get a chance to salvage some battered pride when they open their campaign against Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang of South Korea at the Japan Open in Tokyo.
In the draw released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), world No. 7 Kien Keat-Boon Heong are seeded third and have been drawn in the same half as second seeds Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark, Hong Wei-Shen Ye of China, Japan’s Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata and two new Indonesian combinations – Markis Kido-Alven Yulianto and Hendra Gunawan-Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki.
The match against the Korean youngsters will be a tricky one as they had humbled Kien Keat-Boon Heong in the opening match of the Malaysian Open at Stadium Putra in Bukit Jalil in January.
Should the Malaysians gain sweet revenge, they will be up against the professional scratch pair of Markis-Alven in the second round.
This is set to be another close encounter as Markis and Alven are exceptionally gifted shuttlers.
The tournament will also see the presence of reigning Olympic champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China.
The top seeds are the favourites and have been drawn in the top half with two Japanese pairs – Naoki Kawamae-Shoji Sato, Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa; Malaysia’s Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong and Thailand’s Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit.
For the record, Kien Keat-Boon Heong lost to Cai Yun-Haifeng in the semi-finals of last year’s Japan Open.
If they win the title this time, it will be their first Super Series triumph in two years and a great consolation prize as they wind down towards the tailend of their careers.
In the men’s singles event, world No. 2 Lee Chong Wei is seeking to make up for his loss to Chen Long of China in last year’s final – the first time he was beaten by the Chinese youngster in a Super Series event.
Chong Wei is in the top half with Du Pengyu of China, Peter-Gade Christensen of Denmark, Kenichi Tago of Japan and two top rising players – Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and Wang Zhengming of China.
His new arch-rival Chen Long is in the lower half with Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark, Sho Sasaki of Japan, Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and two Malaysians – Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng.