Paddler Feng into last eight at World Cup
Top seed cruises into last eight to stay on course for Women's World Cup glory
She may not get a better chance to win the Women's World Cup.
With the withdrawals of China's top two players, the path is cleared for Singapore's top-ranked paddler Feng Tianwei to lay her hands on the prestigious trophy in Philadelphia in the United States this year.
The world No. 6 is the tournament's top seed and highest-ranked player after two-time winner (2011 and 2014), Olympic champion and world No. 1 Ding Ning pulled out, citing injury and fatigue, and four-time winner (2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015) and world No. 2 Liu Shiwen followed suit with a fever, cough and sore waist.
The table tennis powerhouses have always dominated the Women's World Cup and this marks the first time they will not be represented in this competition that started in 1996.
Having finished third in 2008 and 2013, the absence of China's top duo puts Feng in good stead for a breakthrough in this competition.
And she got off to a flying start yesterday morning (Singapore time) when she easily dispatched Egypt's world No. 120 Dina Meshref 4-0 (11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5) in the Round of 16.
Earlier, Feng told The New Paper: "I hope to make it to the top four, even though I've been doing just recovery training (prior to the tournament).
"I have spent most of my time off nursing my injuries, including injections for my knee.
"I was out in the first round last year, so I hope to fare better this time, just like I did in the Asian Cup (Feng finished third in the Asian Cup this year in Dubai, behind Liu and China's Li Xiaoxia)."
The 30-year-old Feng will face Germany's world No. 56 Sabine Winter in the quarter-finals this morning.
Winter produced a sensational 4-3 (10-12, 9-11, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10, 11-4, 11-7) comeback win against South Korea's world No. 28 Yang Ha Eun but Feng will be confident of progressing to the final four as she has a perfect 4-0 record against the 24-year-old German.
If Feng sees off Winter, she is likely to face a Japanese teenager in the semi-finals, with 15-year-old world No. 11 Mima Ito and 16-year-old world No. 17 Miu Hirano on her side of the draw.
Feng has a 2-2 head-to-head record against Ito, but was whitewashed 3-0 in the women's team event bronze-medal match at the Rio Olympics in August.
She has faced Hirano just once, and beat her 4-2 in the women's singles quarter-finals at the Asian Cup this year.
Feng's teammate, world No. 13 Yu Mengyu was originally slated to compete in the Women's World Cup as well, but withdrew due to a back injury.
Austria's world No. 21 Liu Jia also booked her place in the last eight after beating Hungary's No. 34 Pota Georgina 4-1 (11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9) yesterday morning.
Liu will now play against the winner of the Round-of-16 match between American Zhang Lily and Taiwanese Cheng I-ching.
Another player through to the quarter-finals was Hong Kong's Tie Yana, who defeated compatriot Jiang Huajun 4-1 (11-7, 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9).
Tie will take on the winner of the last-16 match between German Petrissa Solja and Spaniard Shen Yanfei.