National shuttlers Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han captured their third title in six months and their seventh title together after beating Indonesia’s world No. 49 Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawati 21-12, 16-21, 21-13 in the Orleans Masters mixed doubles final in France on Sunday (April 3).
For their triumph at the Badminton World Federation World Tour Super 100 event, the married couple picked up a cheque for US$7,110 (S$9,646) and are set to climb again from their current world ranking of 86th.
They were ranked 15th in 2017 before Tan suffered injuries and Hee enlisted for national service in 2019. They had slipped to as low as 808th in December 2018.
But they were on fire this past week. In the earlier rounds, they dispatched France’s William Villeger and Anne Tran (ranked 75th) and England’s Callum Hemming and Jessica Pugh (50). They then overcame Hong Kong’s Reginald Lee and Ng Tsz Yau (189) in the quarter-finals and France’s Fabien Delrue and Vimala Heriau (82) in the semi-finals.
In the final, their experience showed against the 22-year-olds from Indonesia.
With Tan, 28, covering the front court capably to set up Hee’s smashes from the back, they raced to an 11-2 lead, with their opponents in disarray, before claiming the first game.
However, the Indonesians found their rhythm in the second game to set up a rubber game. It was a closely fought decider before the interval, but the Singaporeans then came out with all guns blazing from 11-9 to take eight out of the next nine points and give themselves a healthy buffer they never relinquished.
Tan, who could barely raise her arm due to a shoulder issue after their quarter-final, said: “We are extremely delighted and proud of the tenacity we displayed in every match. In the last game, we reminded each other not to ease up and keep going for every point.”
National doubles coach Yap Kim Hock felt that the duo have been very focused and executed the right tactics.
The target for the pair now is to get back into the top 20 and “improve their consistency across training and competition”.
Since tying the knot on Oct 2, and returning to competition as a duo in the same month, Hee and Tan have been in blistering form.
They won the lower-tier Czech Open in the second tournament back, before clinching their first Super 500 event at the India Open in January. They also reached the semi-finals at the lower-tier Dutch Open and Belgian International last year, and the last 16 of the Swiss Open in March.
Hee, 26, said: “Many said we are getting old and may not have a long runway, and this may result in limited support and funding. But we strongly believe we have what it takes, and we are determined to prove them wrong with results.”
The pair will now move on to the April 5-10 Korea Open, a Super 500 event, where they will meet unranked South Koreans Shin Tae-yang and Chang Ye-na.
Other Singaporeans who will feature in South Korea include Yeo Jia Min, Jaslyn Hooi, Loh Kean Hean, Danny Bawa Chrisnanta, Andy Kwek, Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong.
World champion Loh Kean Yew will remain in Singapore to recover and train as he was quarantined in England and could not train in March after testing positive for Covid-19 at the All England Open.