Yu steps up, Singapore top

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She was cool and composed when she approached the media at the mixed zone.

All of a sudden, though, Singapore’s world No. 8 Feng Tianwei broke down in tears, when asked her thoughts on the Republic’s nervy 3-2 win over Holland in their final Group C tie at the Table Tennis Team World Championships at the Malawati Stadium yesterday.

The victory cemented the Singapore women’s team as winners of the group, which afforded them a bye into the last eight.

Composing herself, Feng, 29, said: “It was a very difficult tie. After I lost the first match the pressure was very big but (Yu) Mengyu withstood it and won her match.

“I was actually in a poor condition to play in the fourth match, but I had to persevere and win it to give Mengyu the opportunity to take the court for the fifth match and win it for us.

“I am very proud of our team today,” she added, tearfully.

While Feng had been the strongwoman in the team since the start of the tournament, world No. 34 Yu was the heroine yesterday.

Feng lost the first match 3-2 (12-10, 4-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7) to Li Jiao – her first loss in 10 matches here – but Yu brought Singapore back into the tie with a masterful 3-0 (11-6, 11-7, 11-7) win over chopper Li Jie in the second match.

Yu said: “I played against choppers twice in this tournament and lost to one of them. The defeat woke me up – I told myself to slow down my play and be more patient.”

Isabelle Li lost 3-0 (11-9, 11-7, 12-10) to Britt Eerland in the third match, but Feng stayed strong and kept the tie alive when she trounced Li Jie 3-0 (11-7, 11-3, 11-9) to force the rubber.

Yu had match point at 10-8 in the fourth game of the winner-take-all fifth match, but allowed Li Jiao to force deuce at 10-10.

NERVOUS

Yu recalled: “I was rather nervous when I was leading and Li Jiao, being experienced, sensed it and attacked.”

But Yu held her nerve to win the match 3-1 (9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 12-10) to give Singapore the winning point.

Yu said: “I don’t get to play two matches very often in such big tournaments because usually Tianwei has the burden of getting the two points. “I am satisfied with how I have played in this tournament so far and feel that I have matured quite a bit this week.”

Li Jiao praised Yu after the match.

She said: “Mengyu played really well today, she stepped up when Tianwei was injured. Tianwei’s perseverance is also something we can emulate.”

Late last night, Singapore was drawn against either North Korea or Romania in the last eight, but progress to the semi-finals and a probable showdown with No. 2 seeds Japan – world No. 1 China is in the other half of the draw – will very much depend on Feng’s fitness.

The Singapore No. 1 has been plagued with old injuries and has already played 10 matches in this tournament.

Yesterday, she has been icing her right shoulder in between matches and women’s national coach Chen Zhibin said: “Her injury is rather serious, we have to treat it quickly and see how she recovers tomorrow.

“There is a possibility that Mengyu may play the first singles tomorrow.”

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 3, 2016.
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Friday, March 4, 2016 – 04:10
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