SINGAPORE could celebrate their first SEA Games medals from table tennis' men's and women's doubles competitions tonight.
Even better, the Republic's paddlers remain on course for two all-Singaporean finals, as all four of their doubles pairings progressed comfortably into separate brackets of their semi-finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.
The men's pair of Gao Ning and Li Hu defeated Indonesia's Maulana Gilang and Haruri Akhmad Dahlan 11-4, 11-8, 11-9 in the quarter-finals, while Clarence Chew and Chen Feng also secured an 11-13, 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 last-eight victory over the Philippines' Richard Gonzales and Rodel Irineo Valle.
Gao and Li will face Vietnam duo Tran Tuan Quynh and Nguyen Anh Tu in their semi-final tie, while Chew and Chen tackle Thai duo Padasak Tanviriyavechakul and Chanakarn Udomsilp.
In the women's doubles, Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu overcame a slow start to record an 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 quarter-final victory over Thailand's Paranang Orawan and Khetkhuan Tamolwan.
The other team of Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan easily defeated Malaysia's Ng Sock Khim and Angeline Tang 11-7, 11-5, 11-4.
Feng, ranked fourth in the world, and Yu (world No. 13), were stretched by the lower ranked Tamolwan (No. 114) and Orawan (unranked) early in their tie, with the Thai pair racing to leads in the first two sets.
But Yu's and Feng's pedigree ultimately shone through, as they held their nerve to come from behind, before seeing out a relatively comfortable third set.
Tamolwan, who paired up with debutant Orawan for the first time in the Games, conceded that they lost to the Singaporeans due to their "sheer skill and power".
The 18-year-old from Bangkok said: "We felt like we were able to win initially because we played well in the first two sets. But Singapore were too good and too fast. Their high balls caused us to make many silly mistakes."
While the Thais were left impressed by their opponents, the Singapore team said there is much room for improvement, especially as the team comes to grips with the competition's atmosphere.
Feng noted: "Since it was the first match, we were nervous and more cautious. But we had prepared thoroughly for this match so we performed well in the end."
National team coach Jing Junhong added: "The teams were a bit nervous today, but it is normal for the first day of matches. I have confidence that they will improve as the competition goes on. We will approach the Games match by match."
Blocking Feng and Yu's progress beyond the semi-final are Malaysia's Ho Ying and Lee Rou You, while Thai pair Nanthana Komwong and Suthasini Sawettabut will play Lin and Zhou.
Singapore's paddlers also enjoyed success in the mixed doubles round of 16 yesterday evening.
Yu and Yang Zi swept aside Myanmar's Pyone Aye Thida and Tun Myo Min 11-5, 11-2, 11-5, while the other mixed doubles team of Zhou Yihan and Li Hu dominated in an 11-1, 11-3, 11-5 victory over Myanmar's Lat Thet Ko Ko and San Khin Kaung.
This article was first published on June 2, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.