Paddlers not at peace on court: Jing

Table-tennis bronze medal play-off between Jing Jun Hong (Singapore) and Chen Jing (Taiwan) at the State Sport Centre.

SINGAPORE - Many would be satisfied with the bronze showing by a young and inexperienced Singapore women's national team at the Asian Table Tennis Championships which concluded on Sunday.

But to coach Jing Junhong, it was a mixed outing that is compelling her to try and help her charges do more than just meet the passing mark.

The Republic's campaign ended after Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu were knocked out of the women's doubles quarter-finals on Sunday.

They lost 2-3 (6-11, 9-11, 15-13, 11-3, 8-11) to Hong Kong's Doo Hoi Kem and Li Ching Wan, and Jing felt they had not performed to expectations.

She added in a phone interview from Busan, South Korea: "Tianwei and Mengyu didn't do what they were capable of."

World No. 4 Feng and No. 32 Yu had won the doubles title at the International Table Tennis Federation World Tour Grand Finals in December.

Doo and Li, on the other hand, are the world No. 93 and No. 238 respectively.

But knowing it was a match well within their grasp ended up being the Singaporeans' undoing, said Jing.

"They were reserved, made mistakes, and played as if they were burdened," she added.

Their performance summed up what Jing felt was lacking most in the women's team now.

She said: "We're missing a sense of stability on court - where the players are at peace mentally and are able to go out to do what they're capable of.

"They're less inhibited when playing higher-ranked players, but once they feel they have a chance of winning, it often becomes a burden instead."

Jing also noted that the pressure has become starkly different for Yu, who together with Feng now form the pillars of the women's team after veterans Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu retired.

Said Jing, herself a former national paddler who finished fourth at the 2000 Olympics: "Mengyu has abilities. You can't beat an opponent like Ai Fukuhara of Japan (whom Yu defeated in the singles) without quality.

"But she can also lose to someone rank much lower. It boils down to helping her build her mental strength to a level that's comparable to her technical abilities."

It is a process that will take time and more big-match exposure. Said Jing: "Teams like South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan are matured sides with players who have competed at the Olympics.

"We are starting afresh. Rather than be concerned with China, let us first focus on being competitive against these other teams."