Feng and Yu ready to take on North Korea

Singapore National Paddlers Feng Tianwei (right) and Yu Mengyu.
Singapore National Paddlers Feng Tianwei (right) and Yu Mengyu. ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

Treatment and a day's rest boost fitness and confidence levels of Singapore women's team

The Singapore women's team, who are one win away from equalling their bronze-medal finish at the last World Team Table Tennis Championships, will head into today's quarter-final against North Korea with the advantage of a day's rest after a gruelling few days .

While their opponents had to contend with a round-of-16 match against Romania yesterday, Singapore's top players Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu enjoyed a rest day at their hotel, where massages and ultrasound treatment were on the agenda.

World No. 8 Feng, who strained her shoulder in Wednesday's match against the Netherlands, was especially grateful for the break.

She had also broken down at the mixed zone after Singapore won the nail-biting affair to top Group C and earn a bye into the quarter-finals.

Yesterday, Feng, 29, told The Straits Times: "I got slightly emotional because we had just won a very difficult match and also because I got injured in the process.

"But I'm feeling better today. It's good that we have a day's rest. My shoulder already feels better and I'm sure the effects of the break will show in tomorrow's match."

A win today will assure Singapore of a medal as there is no third-place play-off.

But to do it, Singapore will need Feng in top form.

Playing against many defensive choppers in the group stage took its toll on Feng. Rallies against them tend to be long, while Feng's trademark forehand top-spin means her shoulder has been overworked.

That she has played 10 matches and 37 games is a sign of the physical stress she has encountered.

Yesterday's rest will come in handy against the North Koreans, who boast two defensive players - their top player, world No. 31 Ri Myong Sun, and world No. 89 Kim Song I. Feng has a 1-1 head-to-head record against Ri.

The two teams met in the group stage of the 2012 World Team Championships and Singapore won 3-0.

Romania's coach Viorel Filimon, whose team lost 0-3 to North Korea yesterday, said Singapore are the favourites on paper.

Filimon, who was also at the helm when Romania lost 1-3 to Singapore in the quarter-final at the last championships, cautioned: "If she can recover, Feng Tianwei will play a big role. Yu is good but sometimes she cracks under pressure."

While world No. 34 Yu's temperament was previously suspect, she has gradually stepped up at these world championships.

The 26-year-old, who had slumped to her lowest world ranking in almost four years, won two deciding fifth singles - against Ukraine and the Netherlands - in the group phase to help Singapore preserve their unbeaten record.

Feng, meanwhile, is hoping that her injury does not flare up today. She said: "I know they (North Korea) have two choppers and I hope the injury won't affect my game."

In yesterday's quarter-finals, second seeds Japan defeated Germany 3-0 and will face the winner of the Singapore-North Korea tie in the semi-final tomorrow.

China beat the Netherlands 3-0 in the other quarter-final and will face either Hong Kong or Chinese Taipei in the other semi-final.

Yesterday, Singapore's men lost 1-3 to Denmark, ending their winless campaign. They finished joint 21st in the 24-team event.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Feng and Yu ready to take on North Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe