TOKYO - Singapore will adopt a “nothing to lose” mentality when they take on mighty China in the Olympic table tennis women’s team quarter-finals on Tuesday (Aug 3).
The Republic swept France 3-0 in the round of 16 on Monday, but with a vast array of top talents – world No. 4 Wang Manyu has stepped up from the reserve list to replace world No. 7 Liu Shiwen – defending champions China will provide the ultimate test.
Singapore’s Feng Tianwei said: “We really want to bring back a medal for Singapore but this is not a good draw for us. We are not expected to beat China, so we have to be relaxed and play without pressure or inhibitions.”
The world No. 9 showed her ability to work her way out of adversity on Monday after meeting stiff resistance in the first singles from 17-year-old birthday girl Prithika Pavade, who is ranked 381 places lower but raced to a 2-0 lead.
With the best-of-five format, there is a smaller margin of error and Feng was on the ropes when she was down 6-3 in the fourth game. But she dug deep to eventually win 3-2 (8-11, 6-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-3) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
She said: “I knew it would be tough because we have analysed her and found out she is an aggressive left-hander and having not played against her before, I’m not very familiar with her style of play.
“I didn’t think I would be 2-0 down. Maybe the tactics were a bit off at the start, but I was confident of my abilities, managed to reset, fight back and win.”
Earlier in the first match, Singapore’s Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye beat Stephanie Loeuillette and Yuan Jianan 3-0 (11-6, 11-5, 13-11) in the opening doubles with world No. 60 Lin impressing on her Olympic debut 10 days after the opening ceremony.
The 25-year-old said: “Watching our other players getting to play, I really wanted to get on to the court as soon as possible. During this 10 days, I was focused on finding my form, and once I got started, I was resolved to go for points and a win.
“It is a rare learning experience to play and battle against China that we are looking forward to.”
In the second singles, women’s singles semi-finalist Yu beat 95th-ranked Yuan 3-1 (11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 11-8) in her eighth match at these Games.
The 31-year-old world No. 47 said: “Lin Ye and I have played doubles for five years and even though we have not played together much recently, the understanding is there and she played well today.
“In my singles, I felt a bit tired mentally. But I was prepared for a tough match because I lost in our only previous meeting. As for tomorrow, let’s enjoy playing at these beautiful Games.”
Singapore coach Hao Anlin was pleased with how his team performed, especially with Feng’s resilience and how freely Lin played.
He added: “Everyone knows China’s standard. We will prepare as best as we can, fight hard, see if we can win a match, and see where that takes us.”
The Republic clinched a historic silver in this event at the 2008 Beijing Games, the nation's first Olympic medal since Tan Howe Liang's weightlifting silver at Rome 1960. They followed up with a bronze four years later in London but drew a blank at Rio 2016.