Feng settles for bronze
Singapore's top woman paddler loses to fourth Japanese opponent in three months
Feng Tianwei 0, Japanese paddlers 4.
For the fourth time since August, Singapore's top paddler Feng was beaten by a member of the world's No. 2 team yesterday at the women's World Cup in Philadelphia.
At the Rio Olympics two months ago, Feng, 30, lost 4-0 to Ai Fukuhara in the women's singles quarter-finals, and was beaten by Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito as Singapore fell 3-2 to Japan in the bronze-medal match.
Yesterday, the Singaporean world No. 6 lost 4-2 (3-11, 11-6, 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 15-13) to eventual winner Miu Hirano in the semi-finals, despite leading 2-1 and having game point in the fourth.
She said: "The fourth game was very significant; I was leading 10-5. If I had won that game I would be leading 3-1.
"But it's unfortunate that I lost. I am very disappointed."
Women's national coach Chen Zhibin added: "Her performance today was not too bad and she had prepared well for her semi-final.
"She created a lot of pressure for herself because she let slip the opportunity to win the game at 10-5 in the fourth game."
But Feng bounced back quickly to claim bronze - her third, after 2008 and 2013 - by beating Hong Kong's Tie Yana 4-1 (12-10, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9).
Meanwhile, Hirano, 16, became the youngest winner of the World Cup - with Chinese stars Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen absent due to ill health - after trouncing Taiwan's Cheng I-ching 4-0 (11-9, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8) in the final.
After her bronze-medal match, Feng said: "It's been really tiring, especially playing such a big tournament after the Olympic Games.
"I have not been training for over a month since Rio."
Before leaving for the US, Feng had been training for only a week, and had spent most of her post-Olympic break nursing her fragile knees.
Protecting and strengthening her knees would be her priority in the coming months, as she builds the foundation towards Tokyo 2020.
Singapore Table Tennis Association senior high performance manager Eddy Tay said: "Tianwei's knee injury is affecting her speed, which is an important part of her game.
"In the coming months, she will focus on building her strength and conditioning training so that the coach can increase the intensity of the training."