Great Wall blocks Lin, Zhou

Lin Ye (left) and partner Zhou Yihan serving against Chinese pair Liu Fei and Wu Yang in yesterday's Japan Open women's doubles final. The Singapore paddlers, SEA Games doubles champions earlier this month at home, have much potential but were undone
Lin Ye (left) and partner Zhou Yihan serving against Chinese pair Liu Fei and Wu Yang in yesterday's Japan Open women's doubles final. The Singapore paddlers, SEA Games doubles champions earlier this month at home, have much potential but were undone by the patient, defensive specialists.PHOTO: XINHUA

Young pair have time on their side but need patience against choppers

WHILE they have youthful zest on their side, the flip side for Singapore's exciting table tennis pair of Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan is that in their exuberance to get the job done, they found themselves chopped by experienced and calmer opponents.

That proved to be the case in yesterday's Japan Open women's doubles final, when they were defeated 3-1 by China's Liu Fei and Wu Yang (11-6, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5).

Lin and Zhou's aggressive smashes had earned them a major scalp in the semi-final when they beat the crack Chinese pair of Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen, respectively the world's top- and second-ranked players, on Saturday.

NO QUICK FIX

They just could not adapt as quickly to their opponents' movement and should be more patient against a team who play in such a defensive manner.

- Singapore women's coach Jing Junhong, on the youthful pairing of Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan

But against defensive specialists Liu Fei (world ranking 28th) and Wu (7th), the Singapore duo had no answer to their patient chopping game.

Despite the defeat, Singapore national women's coach Jing Junhong praised her charges and said: "Our young paddlers played well with conviction and fearlessness.

"They just could not adapt as quickly to their opponents' movement and should be more patient against a team who play in such a defensive manner, especially when they change the direction of play so swiftly.

"It's a pity that they did not manage to make full use of the chances they had but, overall, they've fought hard in this game."

In the first game, Lin (49th) and Zhou (65th) struggled to take control of the first set and lost 6-11. But they modified their tactics in the second, bidding their time in long rallies to score points, winning 11-7.

Lin and Zhou held a four-point lead when they stormed ahead 9-5 in the third game but errors led to the Chinese scoring six consecutive points to take a 2-1 lead.

After dealing this morale- crushing blow, Liu and Wu cruised to win the last game 11-5.

Lin, 19, is still satisfied with what she had accomplished with Zhou in the Japan Open even though they could not win their first title together on the International Table Tennis Federation professional circuit.

She told The Straits Times: "It came as a surprise for us to beat Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen (in the semi-final). For me, winning a medal is a form of recognition of my abilities as a player and as a result of my effort.

"I don't feel too disappointed about not winning (the final) because it's a fact that our opponents are stronger than us and we have gained valuable experience."

Similarly, 21-year-old Zhou is excited about her partnership with Lin, saying: "We have good chemistry on court and our three years of partnership allow us to make the best out of one another's strengths."

Jing is also optimistic that the two youngsters can form the next wave of paddlers who can help Singapore stay in the upper reaches of the table-tennis rankings.

The coach said: "This young pair has room for improvement, especially in their judgment and ability to predict the opponents' game play. But they have shown that they can compete at a high level even though they are not as experienced and can only get better with more competitions.

"I hope that they can look to Feng Tianwei as a role model because that is important."

ljeremy@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'GREAT WALL BLOCKS LIN, ZHOU'. Print Edition | Subscribe