Fighter Yu salvages pride for paddlers

Yu Mengyu in control yesterday against Chinese Taipei's Cheng I-ching, whom she outplayed 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3 to reach the women's singles semi-final for Singapore's only table tennis medal at these Games.
Yu Mengyu in control yesterday against Chinese Taipei's Cheng I-ching, whom she outplayed 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3 to reach the women's singles semi-final for Singapore's only table tennis medal at these Games.PHOTO: SPORTSG

Mengyu tames world No. 8 Cheng to reach s-finals for her first individual Asiad medal

Table tennis is hardly a combat sport, but it has forced Yu Mengyu to fight injury constantly over the last few years.

Her campaign at the last Asian Games in 2014 ended with a back injury in the middle of the Games, leaving her unable to continue in the team event and out of the singles competition.

Injury had also sidelined her from action for six months in November 2016, and ruled her out of last year's SEA Games singles event.

But she will return from the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta with a medal around her neck - her first individual Asiad medal and Singapore's first and only table tennis medal at these Games.

Yu yesterday defeated world No. 8 Cheng I-ching of Chinese Taipei 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3 to reach the women's singles semi-finals at the Jakarta International Expo.

The 29-year-old is guaranteed at least a joint-bronze and will face Chinese world No. 5 Wang Manyu.

Said a smiling Yu, who was still in disbelief minutes after her triumph: "I haven't played (Cheng) in four or five years so I wasn't sure if her style had changed...

"Her world ranking is quite high so before the match I was especially relaxed and just gave it my all.

"Her forehand shots are very aggressive, but I was in control of the tempo of the match. My strategy was very clearly planned."

Earlier yesterday, world No. 47 Yu reached the quarter-finals after a 5-11, 13-11, 11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-6 win over Hong Kong's Doo Hoi Kem in the round of 16.

But her exertions from that match did not show when she took on Cheng - Yu looked sharp, often bouncing on her feet in between points.

Ahead of their last-eight clash yesterday, Yu had led the head-to-head 9-3 but said she did not feel she had the advantage.

"I didn't look at the draw. I just played one match at a time because (with all my injuries), I haven't played such highly skilled opponents for a long time," she said.

"So I just fought, one match at a time and I did it, I did it pretty well.

"I can't believe I won a medal."

Yu was a member of the women's team that lost their quarter-final on Monday, and also half of the mixed doubles partnership with Gao Ning who lost at the same stage on Wednesday.

Gao and Feng Tianwei had failed to reach the semi-finals in the men and women's singles respectively, after crashing out in the last 16.

World No. 11 Feng lost to 21st-ranked South Korean Jeon Ji-hee 13-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-8, while Gao fell to second seed and world No. 4 Lin Gaoyuan of China 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8.

At the 2014 Asiad in Incheon, Singapore won three bronzes in the women's team, women's singles and men's doubles, which is not on the programme here.

Yu has never faced the 19-year-old Wang but she knows the latter's skill level is "extremely high".

The Singaporean revealed one key component of her strategy for today: "I'll fight."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2018, with the headline 'Fighter Yu salvages pride for paddlers'. Print Edition | Subscribe