Yu's form in Warsaw to boost Rio hopes

Yu Mengyu, who was beaten by Japanese teenager Miu Hirano in the final of the Polish Open yesterday, said: "My opponent was much more aggressive than when I last played her (at the Qatar Open in March). There are still many improvements that I can ma
Yu Mengyu, who was beaten by Japanese teenager Miu Hirano in the final of the Polish Open yesterday, said: "My opponent was much more aggressive than when I last played her (at the Qatar Open in March). There are still many improvements that I can make, technique-wise." PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

S'porean paddler disposes of top seed but is disappointed after loss in Polish Open final

Despite falling at the final hurdle, Yu Mengyu can take heart from two important victories en route to making the final of yesterday's International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Polish Open.

She was beaten 10-12, 9-11, 10-12, 7-11, by Japanese teenager Miu Hirano to finish second in Warsaw.

Yu, while ranked lower at No. 23, is vastly more experienced than her opponent, the world No. 19. The Singaporean had also beaten Hirano, 16, in their two previous encounters on the ITTF Tour.

A win in the final would have given Yu her second singles title on the ITTF professional circuit, and ended a long wait since she won her maiden title at the 2009 India Open, when the ITTF Tour was still known as the Pro Tour.

Still, for an athlete close to and still anxiously awaiting confirmation of her ticket to the Olympics, victory yesterday was the boost Yu needed.

Her route to the final included a convincing 11-9, 11-9, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8 win over world No. 4 and top seed Kasumi Ishikawa, Japan's top women's paddler and the world's top non-Chinese player.

The win is all the more notable for being a breakthrough of sorts for Yu. While she had taken seven victories out of their 15 previous clashes before yesterday, the Singaporean had failed to get the better of Ishikawa in almost four years.

Yu also beat South Korea's top paddler, world No. 12 defensive specialist Seo Hyo Won, in the round of 16.

She said: "To be able to make it to the final, yet not be able to win the title, is still rather disappointing. My opponent was much more aggressive today than when I last played her (at the Qatar Open in March).

"There are still many improvements that I can make technique-wise."

The result at the Polish Open should give Yu a further lift in her quest for Olympic qualification. The STTA opted not to enter Yu in the second stage of the Asian qualifiers in Hong Kong this month, banking on her ability to qualify for the Rio Games through her world ranking.

The top 22 players on the ITTF's Olympic singles ranking next month will make the cut.

Yu is now No. 14 in the Olympic singles rankings, before taking into account her exploits in Warsaw. Feng Tianwei has already secured her spot at the Olympics.

Should Yu qualify for the singles as expected, she is expected to do much of the heavy lifting with Feng in Rio in the team event.

The team will compete next in this week's Asian Cup in Dubai.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Yu's form in Warsaw to boost Rio hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe