Singapore paddlers face stiff test against Koreans

Singapore paddlers face stiff test against Koreans
Feng Tianwei on her way to a straight-game win over Elizabeta Samara, the Romanian No. 1, in Tokyo yesterday. Singapore's top-ranked paddler and her team-mates have an uphill task against China.

TOKYO - Feng Tianwei and Co will face their most crucial test of the World Team Table Tennis Championships today, when they play South Korea in their penultimate group-stage tie.

A routine day in the office yesterday at the Yoyogi Gymnasium in Tokyo meant that the women's team, seeded fifth in the competition, were able to post 3-1 victories over Russia and the Netherlands with little fuss.

The second win was in particular a confidence booster, given that the same Dutch line-up had just stretched third-seeded South Korea to the distance, before losing 2-3.

Said national women's team head coach Jing Junhong: "The players fared better than I thought they would.

"We were worried when we saw how the Dutch played against South Korea, so for us to have won 3-1 is a positive sign."

Singapore's world No. 159 Isabelle Li, for one thing, tested Britt Eerland (world No. 100) over five games, even though she eventually lost narrowly 10-12, 11-7, 11-3, 5-11, 9-11. Eerland has starred for the Dutch side so far, winning all her matches, including a 3-1 upset over South Korea's world No. 15 Seok Ha Jung.

A win over the South Koreans today will mean Singapore will likely finish top of Group C, guaranteeing the squad a bye into the quarter-finals.

The team will have to go through the round of 16 if they finish runners-up in the group stage.

The South Koreans may have shown some vulnerability in their tie with the Dutch, but Jing maintains her charges remain the underdogs in today's matches.

She said: "It's going to be a very important tie for us, and it won't be easy. But if our players can perform in the same manner they have over the past few days, we can hope."

In the men's event, Gao Ning led the way in Singapore's 3-1 victory over Ukraine.

He beat Ivan Katkov 12-10, 11-4, 11-3 and Kou Lei 11-8, 11-13, 11-8, 11-5, while Clarence Chew overcame Yevhen Pryshchepa 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 4-11, 11-9. Yang Zi lost to Kou 10-12, 4-11, 9-11.

They play Hong Kong today.

This article was published on April 30 in The Straits Times.

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