A year that has resembled many of the euphoric highs and uncertain lows of a roller coaster ride continued to plunge deeper yesterday for Feng Tianwei, when the table tennis player suffered an early exit at the International Table Tennis Federation Swedish Open.
The Singaporean was booted out in the first round after she was beaten 6-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5 by Ukraine's world No. 46 Tetyana Bilenko. Feng had beaten the same opponent 4-2 the last time they met at the 2013 World Championships.
It is the second disappointing result in a row for Feng. The world No. 7 was also upset by a lower-ranked opponent at the Women's World Cup late last month. Then, she lost her opening match to Germany's Petrissa Solja, who was ranked 20 places lower.
The poor showings come on the back of recent coaching shake-ups, when Jing Junhong was replaced as national women's team head coach following a reported fallout with player Yu Mengyu at the Polish Open last month. Liu Jiayi, who was formerly the deputy head coach, took over the reins.
An official from the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) currently in Stockholm with the players declined The Straits Times' request to speak directly with Feng yesterday, citing her need to rest for a doubles match more than six hours later as reason.
There was no response to the queries posed to Feng through the STTA official by press time.
Feng has had some encouraging results this year, beginning with an upset of China's Liu Shiwen to lift the Asian Cup in March, winning her first continental trophy.
But she suffered a shock loss to Thailand's Suthasini Sawettabut at the SEA Games, a result that cost her an anticipated gold medal.
There was also a creditable bronze medal at the Asian Championships last month, when Feng was the only non-Chinese to reach the semi-finals but eventually fell to Chinese opposition.
But the outlook since then has largely been bleak for Feng, who is expected to qualify for the singles event of the season finale in Lisbon next month.
Meanwhile, team-mate Yu got past an unranked Chantal Mantz of Germany 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9, and was due to play China's Chen Meng late last night.
Zhou Yihan was whitewashed 6-11, 7-11, 15-17, 11-13 by Japan's Misaki Morizono.