JAPAN - Singapore paddlers got off to a winning start at the table tennis Women's World Cup in Kobe, Japan, on Saturday, but not before Feng Tianwei suffered some early scares.
The world No. 4 fell two games behind in her opening Stage Two group match against Japan's Ai Fukuhara, before regrouping from her sluggish start in time to win 9-11, 7-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-9, 11-5.
Feng has a far superior head-to-head record against her world No. 15 opponent - she has been victorious in nine of their past 12 meetings - but failed to get the better of Fukuhara in their last two clashes, including a loss in the team event at last year's London Olympics.
Said Singapore Table Tennis Association high performance manager Eddy Tay: "Tianwei couldn't get into the rhythm and made a lot of unforced errors in the first two games.
"But she made some adjustments in time and was more patient.
"Fukuhara was the one going for the kill in the end and ended up making a lot of errors."
Feng will play Austria's world No. 26 Liu Jia in her remaining group stage tie today, a match the second seed is expected to win to ensure a smoother route in the knock-out stages.
Said Tay: "Tianwei has the better chance against Liu Jia. It's important that she tops her group."
Winning the tie would help Feng avoid world No. 1 and defending champion Liu Shiwen until at least the semi-finals.
The Chinese, playing in her third World Cup, has a perfect record at the annual tournament and beat Feng in last year's semi-finals.
Team-mate Yu Mengyu, meanwhile, breezed through her two matches in Stage One of the group rounds to earn a place in the latter stage.
The world No. 27 Singaporean, a quarter-finalist last year, beat Mexican Yadira Silva 4-0 (11-8, 11-3, 11-4, 11-8) and Turkey's Melek Hu 4-1 (11-6, 11-9, 11-5, 6-11, 14-12).
She will play Liu and South Korea's Seok Ha Jung on Sunday for a place in the last eight.
Said Tay: "Mengyu is the underdog.
"The match against Seok will be a tough fight - but she must win to have a hope of making the quarter-finals."
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