Yu reveals coaching conflict

From left: Yu Mengyu, coach Hao Anlin and Feng Tianwei at the Polish Open women's doubles final yesterday, a day after the issue surfaced.
From left: Yu Mengyu, coach Hao Anlin and Feng Tianwei at the Polish Open women's doubles final yesterday, a day after the issue surfaced.PHOTO: ITTF.COM

Cracks in player-coach relations surface at Polish Open as player protests over change

They were top seeded in the doubles, and had just come off a morale-boosting semi-final win over China duo Liu Shiwen and Li Xiaoxia at the International Table Tennis Federation Polish Open on Saturday.

But Singapore's Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu were powerless to prevent a whitewash in the final yesterday, losing 9-11, 3-11, 7-11 to China's Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling - in less than 20 minutes.

The bigger shock, however, came after the match, when both players said coaching disputes the previous day had affected their performance in the final.

DEALING WITH ADDED PRESSURE

I was feeling good for this tournament, but the conflict really affected me mentally, even for today's match.

YU MENGYU onthe coaching saga

According to Yu, national women's head coach Jing Junhong had insisted on coaching her for Yu's women's singles round of 16 match against China's world No. 2 Liu Shiwen, which took place after the semi-final win.

Jing wanted to replace colleague Hao Anlin, who has been coaching Yu's singles matches since the Asian Table Tennis Championships.

The 26-year-old said she protested against the change, as she felt she worked well with Hao.

Sounding indignant over the phone, Yu, speaking in Mandarin, told The Straits Times yesterday: "Nobody said anything before, and suddenly I had to change my coach. I was told to either accept the change or have no coach, or forfeit the match."

Yu said Jing then relented - only after team officials and the match umpire had stepped in to mediate.

Yu, ranked 29th in the world, lost 6-11, 7-11, 9-11, 5-11 to Liu.

She continued: "I don't understand. As a coach, you should encourage your players before a match, instead of arguing with them.

"I was feeling good for this tournament, but the conflict really affected me mentally, even for today's match."

World No. 6 Feng said: "We gave our all, but Mengyu didn't play well. I thought the coaching saga affected her. She was not in the right frame of mind. It is quite a pity."

The pair were coached by Liu Jiayi for their doubles campaign.

Coincidentally, Jing was not on the coaching sidelines for Feng's singles matches on Saturday.

Feng made it to the quarter-finals before losing 11-6, 11-2, 14-12, 11-3, 12-10 to world No. 1 Ding.

Jing could not be reached for comment yesterday.

After the late-night match, comment was sought from the Singapore Table Tennis Association but there was no reply by press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Yu reveals coaching conflict'. Print Edition | Subscribe