Badminton: Doubles joy for newly weds Terry Hee, Tan Wei Han at Czech Open

SINGAPORE – The month of October has been a joyous one for Singaporean shuttlers Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han, who tied the knot on Oct 2, before going on to finish third at the Oct 13-17 Dutch Open.

And the happy couple took home their fifth international title on Sunday (Oct 24) at the Czech Open, when they beat Russia’s 265th-ranked Lev Barinov and Anastasiia Boiarun 21-18, 21-12 in 28 minutes in the mixed doubles final at City Hall Vodova.

The run to their first win together in five years was ridden with obstacles, as the pair – once ranked as high as world No. 15 in 2017 – saw their ranking plunge to 788th due to a combination of national service (NS), injury and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The duo, who halted their partnership in 2019 when Tee enlisted for NS, only reunited on court before the Dutch Open.

Tan, 28, who had come back from meniscus surgery a year ago, told The Straits Times: “We feel happy and proud of this achievement. This win is extra meaningful on so many levels. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears for us to get back together and win another title.”

Hee, 26, added: “Even though we are married, we keep things very professional on court and give our best for every training session and match. We are definitely not here for a honeymoon.”

What made the victory sweeter for the pair was proving they still have the winning touch as they won all five matches without dropping a game.

Their chemistry was key in the final and especially so when they won a 51-stroke rally in a tight first game to make it 17-17, before claiming victory.

They are hoping that this win will make their partnership permanent and that they will get “sufficient support and funding”, they can shoot for Paris 2024.

While Hee and Tan are national players, they had to self-fund for this European trip – which includes the Oct 27-30 Belgian International – as they were not selected by the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA).

However, they are grateful for a $10,000 sponsorship from SBA vice-president Michael Foo’s company Ram E, which helped them to travel and compete.

SBA technical director Martin Andrew explained that it had to “prioritise the players that we send for overseas tournaments with our limited budget due to the Covid-19 situation”, and that Tan had returned from a long injury lay-off.

The duo are still in its plans, as Andrew said: “They are both skilful in their own right and play together well. Terry has a good varied attack from the rear court and is able to expose the opposing female player.

“Wei Han has improved her defence and has good control from the mid and front court areas. As long as they maintain the initiative and control they are difficult to break down. They now have to challenge at a higher level to see if they can get back into the world’s top 25.”

Hours after winning the mixed doubles final, Hee was back on court for the men’s doubles final with Loh Kean Hean against Malaysia’s 126th-ranked Man Wei Chong and Tee Kai Wun.

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Again, it was the lower-ranked Singaporeans who emerged victorious, as they clinched a spirited 13-21, 21-15, 21-15 win in 40 minutes. This was the world No. 135 duo’s second consecutive title after their Dutch Open success.

Hee conceded their rivals played “harder and faster” in the first game and they had to change their strategy. They were 15-13 down in the second frame, before Loh’s superb serves helped them reel off eight straight points to wrest control of the game from their opponents.

He added: “Playing multiple matches is tough of course, but good discipline and good recovery help me pull through. It is not easy, but I can definitely get used to this because it means we are on the right track and making more semi-finals and finals.”

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