There were plenty of thrills and spills at the Seamaster T2 Diamond Singapore yesterday, even as national table tennis players Yu Mengyu and Clarence Chew suffered first-round defeats at the US$500,000 (S$680,000) event.
Up against China's world No. 12 Chen Xingtong, Yu did not blink despite being two points away from a 0-4 defeat in the round of 16. Instead, she won the next five points and the game.
Though she eventually lost 7-11, 5-11, 5-11, 11-9, 5-3, 4-5, the world No. 45 was pleased with her performance and the way she fought despite admitting that she "never really got into the groove".
The 30-year-old added: "Perhaps when she was leading by such a big margin in the fourth game, she relaxed a little while I continued to play my own game.
"I can't be disappointed playing against a strong Chinese opponent in front of a home crowd. I just hope I managed to contribute to an exciting match for the fans."
She certainly rattled her 22-year-old opponent, who admitted to feeling pressure from the Fast5 format, a feature of the T2 event introduced to speed up the game if there is no winner after 24 minutes.
Chen said: "I was nervous after losing the fourth game and then the fifth. (Yu) played very well and put me on the back foot."
Yu and men's teammate Chew were the two host-exempted players at the Nov 21-24 tournament at Our Tampines Hub, which features the world's top 16 men and women.
While Chew, 23, lost 6-11, 11-7, 5-11, 10-11, 2-5 to world No. 5 Tomokazu Harimoto, there were positives to take away. He won five straight points to take the second game and, in the fourth, kept pace till 10-10 before losing.
It wasn't as tough as I imagined and there was still a chance. But the difference between myself and top players like Harimoto is that, in situations like a 10-10 tie, they are more focused and know what to do better.
CLARENCE CHEW, Singapore paddler, who lost 4-1 to Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto.
He said: "It wasn't as tough as I imagined and there was still a chance. But the difference between myself and top players like Harimoto is that, in situations like a 10-10 tie, they are more focused and know what to do better.
"He changed his tactics in the third game and I wasn't quite prepared for that. So that's something I have to work on."
The 16-year-old Harimoto, who last year became the youngest winner of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, said: "The key was the fourth game. If I had lost, it would have been 2-2 and the outcome could have been different."
The first day of the T2 Diamond also delivered drama for the 1,500 fans in the arena, with Hong Kong's world No. 17 Wong Chun Ting retiring from his match against No. 2 Xu Xin of China. Eight minutes in, he fell and injured his right ankle.
The top seed, who was leading 11-6, 4-1, said: "I know he is playing singles at the ITTF Men's World Cup next week and asked if he can still carry on. If he can't, it's best that he retires because next week's match could be more important to him."
In contrast, Wang Manyu was made to go the distance in her 10-11, 5-11, 11-10, 1-5, 5-4, 5-0, 5-4 win over fellow Chinese Zhu Yuling, who had beaten her in the final of the T2 Diamond Malaysia in July.
The action continues today, with Singapore's world No. 9 Feng Tianwei to face top seed Chen Meng (China) in the round of 16.