No.2 ranking vital for S'pore women paddlers
Neither Feng Tianwei, the Republic's top-ranked player, nor head coach Zhou Shusen seemed to feel much regret at failing to retain the title. -myp
Forget about the failed title defence at the World Team Championships. What matters most for the Singapore women's table-tennis team now is to maintain their grip on the world No.2 ranking.
Most of the nation's women paddlers returned yesterday from the Dortmund tournament, after finishing second to table-tennis powerhouse China, the team they miraculously beat to win the previous edition in 2010.
A notable absentee was Wang Yuegu, who stayed behind to visit her Taiwanese husband, who is based in Germany.
Neither Feng Tianwei, the Republic's top-ranked player, nor head coach Zhou Shusen seemed to feel much regret at failing to retain the title, or the meek manner in which they lost 0-3 to China in Sunday's final.
"I know we did our best, and that's enough," said Feng, who endured a poor outing at the championships as she battled a niggling shoulder injury.
Zhou, who said before the final that Singapore had only a "1 per cent" chance to beat China, added: "I had to be realistic. I could not boast that we could beat China. The reality is that they are so far ahead of everyone in the sport."
What concerned him more were the strides that other countries have taken to try and wrest the No.2 ranking from Singapore.
The coveted position will come in handy at the upcoming London Olympics' team competition, as it means the country will be placed at the opposite end of world No.1 China in the competition bracket and will not face the mighty Chinese until the final.
Singapore had that ranking spot during their silver-medal showing at the 2008 Beijing Games, and would dearly love to hold on to it for another medal tilt come July in London.
But they had to battle hard to reach Sunday's final, eking out 3-2 victories against hosts Germany, as well as South Korea, in the quarter- and semi-finals respectively.
And there will be no let-up in the tight competition, with six more table-tennis Pro Tour events coming up before the cut-off date for players to accumulate rankings points at the end of June.
Already, the top three Singapore paddlers - Feng, Wang and Li Jiawei - are suffering from minor injuries, but Zhou said they are unlikely to get time off for recuperation.
"They have shown immense character to keep fighting to get the team into the final," he said. "This shows how much they treasure the No.2 ranking, and I hope they can persevere for a couple more months."
While Wang emerged as the linchpin of the team during the tournament, clinching vital points to send Singapore through to the final, Feng vowed to improve on her mediocre performances.
"I need to work on facing defensive opponents," she said. "I have to be more patient to find winning shots, and not fall into their trap of forcing me to commit errors.
"This will spur me on to be a better player, come the Olympics."
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