C'wealth Games: Singapore paddlers hit

C'wealth Games: Singapore paddlers hit
Singapore paddler Isabelle Li on the first day of the table tennis competition against Sri Lanka at the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland on 24 July 2014. She beat Sri Lanka’s Madurangi 11-9, 11-2, 11-7 to help the Singapore women’s team get off to a successful start.

It will come as a shock that Singapore's challenge in the Commonwealth Games table tennis mixed doubles event now stands at one, after three of the Republic's pairs were knocked out before the semi-final stage at the Scotstoun Table Tennis Centre in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday.

Clarence Chew and Isabelle Li lost to third seeds Eugene Wang and Mo Zhang of Canada 3-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-9), while Li Hu and Yu Mengyu were also beaten by the same score (11-7, 11-8, 11-9) by England's Danny Reed and Kelly Sibley.

Zhan Jian and Feng Tianwei beat Australia's William Henzell and Miao Miao 3-0 (11-8, 11-4, 14-12) to move into the semi-finals. But Gao Ning and Lin Ye were dumped out in the last eight by England's Paul and Joanna Drinkhall 3-1 (9-11, 6-11, 11-8, 6-11).

But national women's coach Jing Junhong kept her cool and explained why the likes of Isabelle and Clarence, and Yu and Li were beaten easily in the Round of 16.

"It's a scenario that we contemplated because they are still new pairings," she told The New Paper, referring to the two pairs that were knocked out.

High hurdle

"Clarence and Isabelle did well in the Round of 32 to beat their Malaysian opponents 3-2, but today they were up against the third seeds.

"With this chopper (Isabelle) and attacker (Chew) partnership, it could cause problems to opponents who are unfamiliar with such a combination, but the Canadians are an experienced pair and they broke through it.

"Li Hu and Mengyu had a higher chance of winning but they have not played together for two years, so they felt the pressure and played too conservatively."

Isabelle's involvement at these Commonwealth Games is over, with a gold medal from the women's team event.

The 19-year-old believes she has gained experience that would do her good as she strives to take her game to the next level.

She said: "Clarence and I haven't been training together for the mixed doubles since the Youth Olympics. We started preparing in Austria during centralised training before these Games.

"Both of us have made changes to our games and I think we have been trying our best to adapt and understand each other better.

"Despite our best efforts, our opponents were the better players. Still, we learnt a lot from the competition that will help us improve."

Jing defended Isabelle's defensive style, and insisted that if it can be honed to a world-class level, then even the best players will have problems beating her.

Added the coach: "I'm not worried about Isabelle because she has been improving. If you look at her world ranking, she has jumped from 159th to 130th in this past month.

"You can't expect her to be world-class straightaway. There needs to be a process. I think she has a chance of raising her game to a high level.

"Her counter-attacks are good now, but she still needs to improve on the defensive aspect of her chopping technique.

"There's still a lot of room for improvement, so let's take one step at a time and gradually guide her to climb as high as possible."

Meanwhile, in the women's doubles, Feng and Yu made light work of Scotland's Lynda Flaws and Corinna Whitaker to win 3-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-1) in just 14 minutes to make it to the Round of 32.

Feng, Yu, and Lin also progressed to the women's singles quarter-finals after posting similar 4-1 victories.

Men march on

In the men's doubles, Gao Ning and Li Hu, and Zhan Jian and Yang Zim, all eased their way into the quarter-finals after 3-0 victories over Malaysia and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.

Singapore have already won the men's and women's team events and are aiming for a clean sweep of the seven golds on offer in table tennis at this Commonwealth Games.

davidlee@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 1 in The New Paper.

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