Fillip for Feng
World No. 5 heads into ITTF Finals on a high after win over top-ranked Ding
It has been a tough year for Singapore's top-ranked paddler Feng Tianwei, but the 30-year-old found some respite on Sunday.
Representing club Ordos in the Chinese Super League, world No. 5 Feng scored an upset 3-2 (12-10, 13-15, 2-11, 11-7, 7-5) win over reigning Olympic champion and world No. 1 Ding Ning.
The Chinese paddler was representing her club Beijing in the competition.
Feng also beat another Chinese player Li Jiayuan 3-0 (11-5, 11-9, 11-8), with Ordos beating Beijing 3-1 to take the tie.
Ordos are lying tied for eighth after 14 rounds while Beijing are joint-fourth in the 10-team competition.
"It wasn't easy beating Ding Ning, and it gave me a lot of confidence and momentum to continue on my path," Feng told The New Paper last night.
Feng, a three-time Olympic medallist, had been tipped to add a fourth to her collection at the Olympic Games in August.
But she bombed out in Rio, exiting at the quarter-final stage of the singles competition.
The women's team also returned empty-handed for the first time since 2004.
In a shocking turn of events, the Singapore Table Tennis Association announced in late October that Feng would no longer be part of the team.
The association explained that it had made the decision with the intention of grooming younger paddlers for Tokyo 2020 and beyond, although it will still support Feng for international competitions.
It was a major fall from grace for the Harbin-born paddler, who was the driving force behind the women's team in recent years.
The victory on Sunday was only Feng's third over Ding, after wins in the 2013 Kuwait Open, and the 2010 World Team Table Tennis Championships, in which Singapore beat China to take the crown.
However, it should be noted that rubber games in singles matches in the Chinese Super League are first-to-seven-point affairs, while the corresponding sets are 11-point games in international competitions.
Nonetheless, the victory over Ding will buoy Feng, as she heads into the International Table Tennis Federation World Tour Finals in Doha starting on Thursday.
Feng is the only Singaporean in the senior competition, with Zeng Jian flying the Republic's flag in the Under-21 women's competition.
Feng said: "I am thankful for everyone's attention and support. I still have the World Tour Grand Finals coming up and I hope to do well there as well."