PETALING JAYA: Former international Tan Boon Heong proved that he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
The 31-year-old, who has joined forces with former Korean doubles ace Kim Sa-rang, stunned world No. 7 Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto of Indonesia 21-13, 18-21, 21-12 in the first round of the Korean Masters in Gwangju, South Korea yesterday.
Boon Heong and Sa-rang, 29, were competing in only their second tournament together since debuting at the Macau Open early this month.
Boon Heong-Sa-rang wasted no time in making their presence felt then as they also ousted French Open champions and world No. 11 Han Cheng-Kai-Hao Zedong of China en route to the last 16.
It was certainly a creditable result considering Sa-rang was playing in his first international meet in two years after returning from retirement.
And yesterday, the once rivals-turned-teammates combination, continued to flourish with another giant-killing display, this time bringing down Fajar-Rian, the Asian Games silver medallists and the winners of the Syed Modi International title in India last Sunday.
“Both Sa-rang and I have no partner to play with, so we gave it a try. And it turned out not too bad!” said Boon Heong.
“Hopefully we can build on this good start and see how it goes. So far nothing has been arranged yet beyond this year. We need to produce good results to secure sponsorships.”
Sa-rang is Boon Heong’s fourth partner since turning professional in 2015.
He first teamed up with Koo Kien Keat, whom he had won the 2006 Doha Asian Games and 2007 All England titles and scaled the world No. 1 ranking with, but they fell short in their bid to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Boon Heong then resumed his journey with Indonesia’s Hendra Setiawan last year, reaching as high as No. 20 in the world ranking before parting ways.
This year, he formed new combination with former Korean world No. 1 Yoo Yeon-seong, but the unfruitful partnership ended in August.
Boon Heong-Sa-rang will face Malaysian independent pair Arif Abdul Latif-Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub for a place in the quarter-finals.
Also through to the second round are men’s doubles pair Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, Lee Zii Jia, Soong Joo Ven (men’s singles) and Goh Jin Wei (women’s singles).