Olympics: Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu beats US' Liu Juan to qualify for table tennis singles quarter-finals

Singapore's Yu Mengyu in action during the women's singles last 16 table tennis event, on July 27, 2021.
Singapore's Yu Mengyu in action during the women's singles last 16 table tennis event, on July 27, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - She held the lead in only 12 of the first 96 points they played, but the only statistic that mattered for Singaporean paddler Yu Mengyu was the 4-2 (11-9, 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 11-8) win over American Liu Juan at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Tuesday (July 27).

And now, she is in another Olympics women's singles quarter-finals.

The 31-year-old will meet Japan's world No. 10 Kasumi Ishikawa on Wednesday. Both paddlers are familiar foes and have met 15 times, with Yu winning seven of those encounters, including their last meeting at the 2016 Polish Open.

By making it into the last eight, the right-handed paddler has also matched her performance in the singles at Rio 2016.

Despite the gulf in rankings, world No. 47 Yu faced problems against her 449th-ranked opponent, a penhold-grip southpaw and a fierce attacker who worked her way from the preliminary round to claim the scalps of Nigerian Olufunke Oshonaike (175th), Spaniard Galia Dvorak (77th), Slovakian Barbora Balazova (54th) and Romanian Bernadette Szocs (27th).

But Yu showed tremendous resilience throughout the hour-long battle to fight her way back, needing just five game points to beat the 36-year-old Liu, a former teammate in the China youth team when Yu was 13.

Earlier in the day, the Singaporean had claimed a superb 4-0 (11-5, 11-9, 12-10, 11-6) win over Taiwanese world No. 8 Cheng I-Ching. This was after her second round match on Sunday - she had received a bye - when she steamrolled past Portugal's world No. 63 Shao Jieni 4-0 (11-3, 11-2, 11-8, 11-9).

Teammate Feng Tianwei, the world No. 9 and three-time Olympic medallist, will play Germany's world No. 22 Han Ying later on Tuesday for a place in the last eight.

Meanwhile, Slovenia's world No. 28 Darko Jorgic shocked local favourite and world No. 4 Tomokazu Harimoto 4-3 (10-12, 11-9, 11-3, 10-12, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7) in the men's singles round of 16.