It was always going to be tricky playing against the mysterious North Koreans. Without top paddler Feng Tianwei, however, the task became next to impossible for Singapore's national women's team.
They were beaten 3-1 yesterday in the play-off for fifth to eighth positions at the Asian Table Tennis Championships in Thailand, after she was ruled out of the tie.
The world No. 7 was rested after suffering a slight pull to her back in the quarter-finals against South Korea on Saturday.
In her absence, world No. 29 Yu Mengyu played first singles, while 15-year-old Eunice Lim also had to step up to the plate.
Yu posted the Republic's lone point in the first match, beating Ri Mi Gyong 11-9, 11-7, 11-9.
It was a good opportunity for Eunice to experience competition at this level. She handled it better than I thought she would.
JING JUNHONG, national women's team head coach, on young paddler Eunice Lim
Eunice, the world No. 652, was no match for her No. 30 opponent Ri Myong Sun, losing 4-11, 3-11, 7-11.
Yee Herng Hwee, ranked 447th, was beaten 11-2, 11-3, 11-3 by Kim Song I in the third singles, before Yu lost the fourth match against Ri Myong Sun 7-11, 3-11, 11-3, 9-11.
National women's team head coach Jing Junhong said in a phone interview from Pattaya: "Tianwei's condition doesn't seem to be very serious for now, but we decided give her some rest and time to recover for the singles and doubles events.
"Without her, the result was pretty much expected. But it was a good opportunity for Eunice to experience competition at this level. She handled it better than I thought she would."
The Singapore Sports School Secondary 3 student, while nervous before playing the biggest match of her fledgling career, relished the experience.
She said: "Young players like us don't normally get the chance to play with top players like these.
"I was nervous at first, but when I started playing, I knew I had nothing to lose and all I had to do was to try my best."
Singapore will play Chinese Taipei next for seventh place, and Jing hinted that she could field the team's three young players today.
Goi Rui Xuan, 14, the world No. 624, is the remaining member of the team.
Said Jing: "Mengyu has played defensive players successively over two days and it's taken a slight toll on her body.
"There are still the singles and doubles events ahead and at this stage of the team event, there's no point exhausting her just for one tie. It'll be a good chance for the young ones to gain competitive experience."
In the men's team event, Singapore beat India 3-1, and will play Hong Kong today for fifth place.
Yang Zi beat Harmeet Desai 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 before Gao Ning posted a 13-11, 11-4, 11-3 victory over Soumyajit Ghosh. Clarence Chew lost 11-5, 6-11, 6-11, 8-11 to Sanil Shetty, but Gao earned the winning point for the team in his 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 11-6 victory over Desai.