Singapore's women paddlers survive scare against Ukraine
Ukraine give Feng & Co mighty scare before Yu delivers winning point
REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR
They have been unbeaten in the group stages of the World Team Table Tennis Championships since 2006, when they were stunned 3-2 by Croatia.
Last night, the Singapore women's table tennis team kept their streak going, but only just.
World No. 34 Yu Mengyu was both the villain and the hero in the 3-2 win over Ukraine at the Malawati Stadium in Shah Alam, which lasted four hours.
Yu lost the second match against defensive specialist Tetyana Bilenko 3-0 (13-11, 11-9, 11-6), but redeemed herself when she defeated Margaryta Pesotska 3-1 (9-11, 11-6, 17-15, 11-6) in the rubber match amid loud cheers from the Singapore bench that echoed in the near-empty arena.
After the match, the 26-year-old Yu said: "I don't feel tired yet, I am still pumped up after my win. It was one of the most exciting matches in my career."
Singapore's top-ranked paddler Feng Tianwei had put her team ahead with a 3-2 (11-8, 3-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6) win over Pesotska in the first singles, only for the Eastern Europeans to draw level at 1-1 after Yu lost to Bilenko.
Zhang Wanling, aged 16 and ranked 539th in the world, put up a brave fight in the third singles, but 114th-ranked Ganna Gaponova proved too good in a 3-1 (11-7, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9) victory to give Ukraine a 2-1 lead.
Bilenko, who beat Feng 4-3 at the Swedish Open last November, pushed the Singaporean all the way in the fourth singles but eventually class told as Feng won 3-2 (12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 14-12).
World No. 8 Feng said: "It was very scary, there were a lot of difficulties in this tie and I was very proud that we stuck together and didn't give up.
"We were down after trailing 2-1, but we persevered. Personally speaking, beating (Bilenko) will also boost my confidence for the upcoming matches."
With the tie finely balanced at 2-2, it looked like it was going to be Ukraine's day with Yu's patchy form against France earlier in the day, but the Singaporean saved her best for last with a strong performance in the last match against Pesotska.
Yu said: "Before my last match (against Pesotska), I was watching how Tianwei was fighting and never giving up against Bilenko.
"I told myself to be calm and to take my time with my rallies, but I wasn't that good at it in the first game, which I lost.
"The win is definitely encouraging and I think my confidence will be up in the upcoming ties."
While the players had their hearts in their mouths against Ukraine, women's national coach Chen Zhibin believes that the tough manner of their victory last night will serve them good in the upcoming matches.
Chen said: "Mentally, it was great for Tianwei to have beaten the chopper who she lost to just last November."
"For the whole team, it is better for them to face these tough situations early so that they will be toughened up when such situations arise later in the tournament. And they will, since we will have tougher and tougher opponents coming up."
Feng and Co, who beat France 3-1 in their group-stage opener earlier yesterday, will face Belarus this afternoon.
It was one of the most exciting matches in my career.
— Yu Mengyu after beating Margaryta Pesotska
RESULTS (Singapore only)
MEN'S (Group C)
- S’pore 2 Poland 3 (Gao Ning lost to Jakub Dyjas 11-9, 9-11, 11-13, 11-8, 9-11; Yang Zi bt Wang Zengyi 5-11, 11-5, 11-7, 15-13; Clarence Chew lost to Daniel Gorak 2-11, 11-9, 8-11, 3-11; Gao Ning bt Wang 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9; Yang Zi lost to Dyjas 9-11, 11-8, 5-11, 5-11).
WOMEN'S (Group C)
- S’pore 3 France 1 (Feng Tianwei bt Pauline Chasselin 11-3, 11-8, 11-8; Yu Mengyu bt Carole Grundisch 7-11, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4; Isabelle Li lost to Audrey Zarif 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 6-11; Feng bt Grundisch 11-7, 11-1, 12-10)
- S’pore 3 Ukraine 2 (Feng Tianwei bt Margaryta Pesotska 11-8, 3-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6; Yu Mengyu lost to Tetyana Bilenko 11-13, 9-11, 6-11; Zhang Wanling lost to Ganna Gaponova 7-11, 5-11, 11-8, 9-11; Feng bt Bilenko 12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 14-12; Yu bt Pesotska 9-11, 11-6, 17-15, 11-6).
Singapore's men paddlers lose narrowly to Poland
They started as the underdogs, with only world No. 21 Gao Ning ranked higher than the three Polish players.
Despite being ranked 18 rungs below their opponents, the Singapore men's table tennis team, ranked 30th in the world, put up a brave fight against world No. 12 Poland in their opening Group C tie last night but lost 3-2 in the end.
Gao Ning was pushed to the rubber game in the first match against world No. 82 Jakub Dyjas and rolled his ankle in the decider while leading 2-1.
The 33-year-old Singaporean received treatment for about five minutes on the court before resuming the match, but conceded the first point with a 9-11, 11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 11-9 loss.
World No. 163 Yang Zi levelled the tie in the second singles with a 5-11, 11-5, 11-7, 15-13 victory over Wang Zengyi, ranked 40th in the world.
Clarence Chew, the world No. 176, put up a fight early in the third match against world No. 67 Daniel Gorak, but fell 11-2, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3 to give Poland a 2-1 lead.
Gao Ning played through the pain and pulled Singapore back into the tie again with a 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9 win over Wang.
The stage was set for Yang Zi to be the hero, but it was not meant to be, as he fell 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5 to Dyjas.
Things are not going to get any easier today, with Gao Ning and Co. facing third seeds Japan and world No. 6 Portugal.
- LIM SAY HENG