Table tennis: Feng Tianwei suffers second first-round defeat in two weeks

Feng's competitive return hits another first-round bump at ITTF Finals in China

Feng Tianwei remains on a quest to regain her rhythm after a lengthy period without playing competitive matches. That quest will take her to Macau this month, and then Japan's T.League.
Feng Tianwei remains on a quest to regain her rhythm after a lengthy period without playing competitive matches. That quest will take her to Macau this month, and then Japan's T.League.PHOTO COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL TABLE TENNIS FEDERATION

It is back to the drawing board for Singapore's top paddler Feng Tianwei after the world No. 9 suffered her second first-round defeat in two weeks, this time at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Finals in Zhengzhou, China.

The US$1 million (S$1.35 million) season-ending tournament features the world's best players, but Feng saw her hunt for her first finals title derailed after she was upstaged by world No. 20 Petrissa Solja in the round of 16 yesterday.

The 26-year-old German, who won a team silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics, rallied from 2-1 down to defeat her older and more experience opponent, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-9.

This comes after Feng lost 4-2 to American world No. 27 Lily Zhang in her opener at the ITTF Women's World Cup in Weihai last week.

The 34 year-old, who has three Olympic medals, said: "There are new elements which we worked on recently that did not quite come off in these matches.

"Prior to this month's events, I had not played competitively for quite a while, and I could not get into the rhythm of things going straight into these big tournaments.

"My team and I will definitely analyse the games and make adjustments to improve for upcoming competitions."

Before last week's tournament, Feng's last event was the Qatar Open in March, after which she returned to Singapore as a precautionary measure during the early stages of the pandemic.

The two-month circuit breaker also meant she resumed training only in June.

Her coach He Keyi felt the turning points in these last two matches was her inability to close out games from winning positions.

He said: "It is a bit of a waste because Tianwei has the quality to beat these opponents, but just could not get into a consistent rhythm for these two matches.

"For this match, she was leading in the first and sixth games but just could not put them away.

"Still, we see improvements from the previous match. Solja is not an easy opponent and beat Tianwei twice in three previous encounters. She is understandably upset at losing, and we will continue to train hard and tweak our tactics. I believe once she gets a win under her belt, she will go from strength to strength."

Feng's next stop is Macau for a promotional World Table Tennis showcase event which will take place from Wednesday to Nov 29.

She will then head to Japan to play in the T.League, where she will represent Osaka-based Japan Paint Maretz.

Feng said: "The purpose of going to Japan and playing in the T.League is to play more matches and get back into the groove, which I believe will be of great help to me as I prepare for next year's Olympics."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2020, with the headline 'Second week, second loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe