For a pair whose partnership now feels foreign, having gone almost 20 months without competing together, just getting through one match at the World Table Tennis Championships felt good enough.
Making a run to the semi-finals, guaranteeing at least a bronze medal, thus felt like a “miracle” for Singapore paddlers Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu.
The duo earned a place in the final four yesterday after they beat Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-yu and Cheng I-ching 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The Taiwanese are sixth seeds at the prestigious tournament, while Feng and Yu, who have not entered an event as a doubles pair since the end of 2015, are seeded 11th.
“It’s a miracle to make it this far,” said Yu yesterday shortly after their win. “We didn’t even train a day together before the tournament started. To be able to get to the semi-finals is something to be very happy about.”
Feng, the world No. 4, no longer trains with the national team after she was axed from the set-up by the Singapore Table Tennis Association last October. Although now an independent, she remains the Republic’s top paddler and continues to represent Singapore at international events.
With losing semi-finalists at the World Championships awarded bronzes, this means Feng and Yu will at least match their showing at last two editions. They also won bronzes in 2013 and 2015, the years when individual events are contested at the World Championships.
Feng earlier earned a place in the singles quarter-finals after beating home favourite Kristin Silbereisen 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9.
But her run ended as she went down 5-11, 2-11, 16-18, 5-11 to Japan’s world No.8 Miu Hirano.
Said Feng, whose defeat came after playing a third match of the day in quick succession: “I think overall I still did okay today. The scheduling of the matches was a little to my disadvantage. I only managed to rest 15 minutes in between my matches. It’s quite a pity.”
She will team up with Yu on Monday to play China’s third seeds Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling in the doubles semi-finals.
The World Championships are just Yu’s second tournament after the world No. 23 underwent surgery last November for a shoulder injury. Her comeback began at the Korea Open in April.
She said: “Perhaps it’s the amount of time that Tianwei and I have spent together at various tournaments in the years that we’ve been in Singapore.”
“I think we understand each other very well – maybe even better than how parents understand their children,” she joked.
“Tianwei has been very supportive in my comeback from injury and is very encouraging even if I make a mistake in the match.”