THE 2006 Japan Open was Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong's first international tournament as a pair, and their outstanding performance prompted coach Rexy Mainaky to make them a permanent combination.
However, Kien Keat-Boon Heong will be in a totally different scenario as this year's edition, which begins today, is one of the last few tournaments for them. They will go separate ways come January.
The BA of Malaysia (BAM) is expected to pair Kien Keat and Boon Heong with Lim Khim Wah and Goh V Shem respectively but the pair will be allowed to compete in the super series events this year.
Kien Keat-Khim Wah and Boon Heong-V Shem will also be playing in selected grand prix events over the next three months.
This will probably push Kien Keat-Boon Heong to make the most of their last few super series events together, starting with the Japan Open.
The absence of the world's leading pairs, Chung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae of South Korea and China's Olympic champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng has not only earned Kien Keat-Boon Heong the second seeding but also a favourable draw.
They have a first-round bye before a likely meeting with Thailand's No 2 Patiphat Chalardchalaem-Nipitphon Puangpuapech, while the clash in the last eight will be against either compatriots Tan Wee Kiong-Hoon Thien How or Japan's Naoki Kawamae-Shoji Sato.
Despite their poor form, Kien Keat-Boon Heong should not stumble and are also expected to beat Japanese pair Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata in the last four.
The title decider will be tough as Kien Keat-Boon Heong are expected to meet Denmark's Olympic silver medallists Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong finished runners-up in 2006 in their debut in Tokyo and it could be be the same again this time. By K.M. Boopathy