Asean University Games 2016

NUS' Kerry Tan rescues Singapore after multiple SEA Games gold medalist Pang Xue Jie falters

Kerry Tan was the toast of the Singapore team after he beat Siripattananutakul Nutchapat of Thailand 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 to secure their semi-final spot at the Asean University Games table tennis competition.
Kerry Tan was the toast of the Singapore team after he beat Siripattananutakul Nutchapat of Thailand 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 to secure their semi-final spot at the Asean University Games table tennis competition. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Multiple SEA Games gold medallist Pang Xue Jie is arguably the biggest name in Singapore's Asean University Games table tennis contingent but it was his team-mate Kerry Tan who grabbed the headlines.

The 21-year-old held his nerve to beat Thailand's Siripattananutakul Nutchapat 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 yesterday in the decisive rubber, to seal a 3-2 win and secure the hosts a spot in the semi-finals of the men's team event.

They had defeated Cambodia 3-0 in the earlier match on the opening day of the competition and had taken a 1-0 lead against the Thais after Sean Lee's 11-8, 6-11, 13-11, 10-12, 11-8 win over Tancharoen Sarayutin in the first singles.

But Pang, 23, was shocked 9-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-3, 5-11 by Siripattananutakul. Both teams split the next two matches before Tan's heroics at Nanyang Technological University's Sports Hall sent them top of Group B.

Vietnam, who recorded 3-0 wins over the Philippines and Malaysia in Group A, will face either Thailand or Cambodia in the last four.

Tan, a National University of Singapore first-year chemical engineering student, said: "Playing the last match against a strong opponent like Thailand with all the pressure and everyone looking at us... it was really heavy on me. But my team-mates cheering behind me relieved the pressure and gave me the motivation to do better.

"(Today's win) shows that all of us are ready and we are one step closer to gold... From now till the semi-finals on Thursday, we will not let loose. We will continue to strive harder."

While the men enjoyed smooth passage into the knock-out phase, it was a disappointing day for the Republic's women's team, who lost 0-3 to both Malaysia and Thailand yesterday.

Singles player Lim Yi Xuan rued her missed chances in her loss to Thai Areeya Sangpao. The local paddler had led 10-7 in the third game before succumbing 8-11, 9-11, 12-14.

Lim, 20, said: "We were both nervous, but I think I was more nervous than her. That's where I lost my chance."

The women's division features round-robin play and Singapore will face the Philippines and Vietnam today, knowing victory is vital for their target of a medal finish.

Lim said: "What happened today has ended, and tomorrow is a new start for us.

"We've already lost two matches, but if we can beat the Philippines and reach the 3rd/4th play-offs, I think we can still achieve our target of a bronze medal."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2016, with the headline 'Tan rescues team after Pang shocker'. Print Edition | Subscribe