SINGAPORE - Feng Tianwei may have been knocked out of the promotional World Table Tennis (WTT) Macau showcase on Friday (Nov 27) after she was beaten 3-1 (11-10, 11-7, 10-11, 11-3) by Chen Meng in the quarter-finals, but it was not all doom and gloom for Singapore's world No. 9 paddler.
Upsetting the world No. 1 was always going to be an uphill battle, with Chen arriving at the Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion with titles from the last two marquee events this month - the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Women's World Cup and the ITTF Finals.
Yet knowing that she could hold her own against the in-form Chinese star in Friday's defeat was reassuring for Feng, who suffered shock losses in her first two matches back - against America's Lily Zhang at the World Cup in Weihai on Nov 9 and German world No. 20 Petrissa Solja at the ITTF Finals last week.
The 34-year-old said: "I definitely played better in this tournament than I did in the previous two.
"She's now ranked first in the world and overall is a very strong player so it's difficult to beat her, but I'm constantly working to improve myself."
Chen closed the match out emphatically to take an 8-1 lead in their head-to-head meetings.
On losing the fourth game 11-3, Feng said: "She was applying a lot of pressure and I've still got many aspects of my game that I need to strengthen."
Despite the defeat, Feng's coach He Keyi was also pleased with her performance.
He said: "This match against Chen Meng shows that our training programme is working.
"She will become more confident after this competition, especially after playing like that against the world No. 1."
The WTT Macau introduced different rules to the tournament, including a sudden-death point at 10-10 in the first four games. A deciding fifth game would need to be won by two clear points, which is what players are accustomed to.
The change was welcomed by Feng, who said that it gives everyone an equal opportunity.
Feng's only victory over Chen came at the German Open in October last year when she stunned the latter 4-0 (11-6, 11-2, 11-4, 11-8) in the quarter-finals.
Since then, Chen has had the upper hand.
"Chen Meng has matured a lot and has improved very quickly," Feng said of the 26-year-old. "She deserves to be ranked first."
Chen will face compatriot and world No. 13 Chen Xingtong in the semi-finals of the WTT Macau on Saturday.
The tournament, which ends on Sunday, features 32 global stars including reigning Olympic men's and women's champions Ma Long and Ding Ning.
It has a prize purse of US$800,000 (S$1,070,584) that includes a US$15,000 appearance fee for each paddler.
Feng, who has qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics, will head to Japan next, where she will represent Osaka-based Japan Paint Maretz in the T.League.