Feng Tianwei may face old foe

Feng Tianwei may face old foe

Feng Tianwei is set to meet arch-rival Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan should she progress to the women's singles quarter-finals of this week's World Table Tennis Championships in Suzhou.

But before that, she will have to contend with another familiar paddler in the round of 16 - her team-mate Yu Mengyu.

The top two Singapore women's paddlers were placed in the same bracket in yesterday's main draw in China, ahead of today's qualifying round.

World No. 4 Feng has met Ishikawa 13 times since 2007, winning nine of those encounters including the third-place play-off at the 2012 London Olympics.

However, the 22-year-old world No. 5 has improved steadily in recent years, and won her most recent clash with Feng at last year's Incheon Asian Games in the team semi-finals, when Japan won 3-2.

When asked about what the possible outcome might be between Feng and Ishikawa, Singapore's women's team head coach Jing Junhong said that it is a "50-50" clash.

"It all depends on which of them can bring on her best performance on match day," she added. "If Tianwei can hit her peak form against Kasumi, she will win."

Feng's potential match-up with world No. 16 Yu in the round of 16 also sets up an intriguing tie between two long-time team-mates who know each other inside out.

Said Jing of the possible encounter: "Tianwei wins most of her games against Mengyu, but both of them understand each other very well as they train together. So again, it will very much depend on their performance on match day."

Singapore's third women's singles player, Isabelle Li, will likely be meeting her first strong opponent, Mima Ito from Japan, in the second round if she wins her first match in the round of 128 against a qualifier.

The 14-year-old Ito, who is currently ranked world No. 15, has made great improvements from her previous ranking of No. 38. When asked whether she felt satisfied with the draw, Jing said: "The first few rounds will potentially be more difficult compared to the later ones, as our seeded players are well studied by our opponents.

"There are also several unseeded but highly skilled Chinese players in the qualifying rounds so it is very difficult to predict how far they will go. We will have to focus match by match and take it one step at a time."

In the men's singles draw, Singapore's top player Gao Ning, the world No. 15, will be up against Gustavo Tsuboi from Brazil should he beat his qualifier opponent in the opening round.

Both defending singles champions Zhang Jike and Li Xiaoxia face tough draws. Men's singles champion Zhang was drawn alongside the likes of world No. 2 Xu Xin, world No. 5 Jun Mizutani and Belarussian veteran Vladimir Samsonov.

Women's singles champion Li of China was drawn to face tough compatriots, world No. 2 Liu Shiwen and world No. 6 Zhu Yuling.

chongcjy@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 26, 2015.
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