Table tennis: Singapore will improve, says Chen

Singapore's women's table tennis coach, Chen Zhibin.
Singapore's women's table tennis coach, Chen Zhibin. PHOTO: ZAOBAO

Coach insists Feng and Co. will learn after being severely tested by Ukraine on day one

Inside the 13,000-seat Malawati stadium hang the flags of all 99 participating countries. Yet curiously, hosts Malaysia got only that of their neighbours wrong as the Singapore flag was hung upside down.

The error proved somewhat prescient, for Singapore's women endured a topsy-turvy time yesterday, on day one of the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

The tournament's fifth seeds had started their campaign well, convincingly beating France 3-1. However, they had to go the full distance against 14th seeds Ukraine, before Yu Mengyu, 26, won the deciding fifth singles.

TOUGH WIN BUILDS CHARACTER

Sometimes it's good to win in these circumstances, because only in trying situations can you find your best self. They will take confidence from this and improve in the next game.

CHEN ZHIBIN, Singapore women's table tennis national team coach, on their narrow win over Ukraine.

After a see-saw battle with no clear victor, the world No. 34 finally found form in the fourth game to beat Margaryta Pesotska, 63rd in the world, 9-11, 11-6, 17-15, 11-6.

She said: "It's one of the most nerve-wracking matches of my career. I just tried to slow things down, because previously I was rushing everything, from picking up the ball to my play."

World No. 8 Feng had scored two points for Singapore, winning the first singles against Pesotska (11-8, 3-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6) and the fourth singles against world No. 49 Tetyana Bilenko (12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 14-12).

 

Yu's loss to Bilenko in the second singles (11-13, 9-11, 6-11) was unexpected, although debutante Zhang Wanling provided some cheer as she bravely fell 7-11, 5-11, 11-8, 9-11 to Ganna Gaponova.

Coach Chen Zhibin said the manner of victory in the near-empty arena would galvanise his charges for the rest of the tournament.

He said: "Sometimes it's good to win in these circumstances, because only in trying situations can you find your best self. They will take confidence from this and improve in the next game."

The women play 21st seeds Belarus today.

Earlier in the day, wins from Feng and Yu had given the Republic a comfortable win over France.

Feng, who lost to lower-ranked opponents in her last two International Table Tennis Federation World Tour events, made sure there was no repeat as she beat world No. 149 Pauline Chasselin 11-3, 11-8, 11-8.

Yu, also suffering from a loss of form, was stretched before seeing off world No. 97 Carole Grundisch 7-11, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4.

Isabelle Li fell to Audrey Zarif 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 6-11, before Feng sealed the tie in straight games, making light work of Grundisch 11-7, 11-1, 12-10.

Feng, who has dropped to her lowest ranking in nearly four years, said she is slowly finding her feet.

She was particularly pleased with her win over Bilenko, a defensive player who had beaten her at the Swedish Open in November.

"Today was difficult. We had to come from behind many times but our refusal to give up will boost our confidence for the matches ahead," said Feng.

"I lost to Bilenko, a chopper, last time. But I told myself not to give up even after falling behind, and winning motivates me for the rest of the tournament."

Feng and Co. are aiming for a spot in the semi-final to preserve their medal streak, which started in 2008.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'S'PORE WILL IMPROVE, SAYS CHEN'. Print Edition | Subscribe