Feng and Co. eye another shock win over top seeds China in today's semi-finals
WORLD TEAM TABLE TENNIS C'SHIPS, WOMEN'S SEMI-FINAL
SINGAPORE v CHINA
(Today, 1pm, StarHub TV Ch 203)
We have done it before and we can do it again.
Singapore will start as the outright underdogs against powerhouses China in today's World Team Table Tennis Championships semi-final in Tokyo, but the Republic's women's table tennis team are not throwing in the towel.
After disposing of Romania 3-1 in the quarter-finals yesterday, Feng Tianwei and Co. now have to defeat the top seeds today to reach their fourth consecutive final.
Though they are assured of a medal even if they lose - there are no play-offs for third place - the Republic's paddlers will give their all as they eye another famous scalp over the Chinese.
Singapore shocked China to win the Corbillon Cup in 2010 - finishing second in 2008 and 2012 - and national head coach Jing Junhong is not ruling out a repeat of the famous feat.
"We know we are underdogs," Jing said yesterday. "But, as long as there is one per cent chance of victory, we will go all out for it.
"The players have got nothing to lose, and nothing is impossible. They need to believe in themselves."
The former national player was heartened by the "fighting spirit" and "hunger" shown by her charges, who are seeded fifth, when they beat ninth seeds Romania yesterday.
The Europeans had upset third seeds South Korea in their Round-of-16 tie on Friday and were hoping to extend their giant-killing run.
But team captain Feng killed off their hopes, winning both her matches in the second and fourth singles. The world No. 7 beat Daniela Monteiro Dodean (53rd) 12-10, 11-8, 11-9, and then Elizabeta Samara (26th) 11-8, 11-5, 11-9.
Yu Mengyu, the world No. 18, won her see-saw encounter in the first singles against Samara 11-8, 4-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-7.
Both Feng and Yu remain unbeaten at the world championships.
Rookie Isabelle Li, ranked 159th and making her debut in the competition, lost to Bernadette Szocs (59th) 11-4, 9-11, 9-11, 8-11 in the third singles.
In the other semi-final, Japan take on Hong Kong.
There was less joy for the Republic's men's team, who suffered a repeat of their 3-0 group-stage defeat by the second-seeded Germans in the quarter-finals yesterday.
Teenager Clarence Chew, who had posted upset wins over Hong Kong's Wang Chun Ting (37th) and Sweden's Per Gerell (35th) in the past week, was no match for Germany's world No. 6 Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who beat the 18-year-old 11-5, 11-8, 11-3.
Germany's world No. 9 Timo Boll then overcame Singapore's Gao Ning (14th) 13-11, 11-7, 11-5, before compatriot Patrick Franziska beat Pang Xue Jie 9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-6.
"Reaching the top eight is a big achievement for the men's team," said Singapore Table Tennis Association's high performance manager Eddy Tay.
"There's still a wide gap between our paddlers and a team like Germany, but that gap is getting smaller. The experience has been good for their development."
Meanwhile, the International Table Tennis Federation announced yesterday that players can pair up with international rivals to form mixed-nation doubles teams during future World Table Tennis Championships in a bid to improve competition and boost growth.
Besides the decision to allow the mixed-nation pairs, the basic quota of singles players per country will also be reduced from five to three in future world championships.
However, the rule to increase the quota if a country has a player in the world's top 100 and one more if they have a player in the top 20, making a maximum of five, remains valid.
We know we are underdogs. But, as long as there is one per cent chance of victory, we will go all out for it.
- National women's head coach Jing Junhong