When China's Chen Meng won gold at the 2009 Asian Youth Games in Singapore, Feng Tianwei was already an Olympic medallist.
The 23-year-old has since risen to world No. 2 and dealt Singapore's top table tennis player a 4-11, 8-11, 6-11, 3-11 loss in the women's singles quarter-finals of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Astana, Kazakhstan, last night.
Feng also fell in straight games, 0-3, when she last faced Chen at the Asian Championships in April, but admitted her rival has improved "significantly" since.
"I performed to my normal standards today. I haven't played against her for a while and I feel that she has raised her game in every aspect since then. It was beyond my expectations," Feng, 31, told The Straits Times in a phone interview.
The Chinese paddler raced to a 7-1 lead in the first game, with Feng struggling with the former world junior champion's lightning-quick flicks and powerful drives.
It was the same story in the second game, as the top seed raced to a 7-0 lead, but Feng narrowed the gap to 8-10 before losing 8-11.
The world No. 11 said: "I made some changes to my strategy in the second game, and I just told myself to fight for every point and not give up. But every aspect of her game was very strong."
Chen continued to take commanding leads in the next two games - 5-0 in the third and 6-1 in the fourth - before closing them 11-6 and 11-3 to claim victory and advance to the semi-finals tonight.
Despite her exit, the 2010 Grand Finals winner said she was satisfied with her performance.
"I had quite an intense match yesterday," said Feng, who beat Chinese Taipei's Cheng I-ching 11-9, 7-11, 17-15, 11-5, 11-8 in the first round on Thursday. "While my score today against Chen Meng was not as close as I wanted it to be, I have tried my best."
Feng, the first female paddler to make an 11th appearance at the prestigious season-ender, is the third-oldest player in the women's singles in Kazakhstan, after Germany's Han Ying and Shan Xiaona (both 34). The average age of the 16-strong field is 22.8 years.
Along with Japanese teenagers Mima Ito, Hina Hayata and Miu Hirano (all 17), debutant Chen (23) and fellow Chinese Wang Manyu (18) and Chen Xingtong (20) represent the new generation who are likely to challenge for honours at the 2020 Olympics.
Feng acknowledged that she has to raise her game against these youngsters to do well in Tokyo.
The three-time Olympic medallist said: "These younger players have more drive and they are a threat, but I hope I can make some breakthroughs to challenge them."