SINGAPORE - Dishing out surprise quick serves and dragging her opponent left to right across the table, Singapore's top paddler Feng Tianwei tried her best to execute her attacking game in her 12th appearance at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
But, no matter how hard the 32-year-old tried, her Chinese opponent Wang Manyu always seemed to have an answer as the world No. 5 and top seed won their opening round-of-16 encounter 4-1 (11-3, 10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5) at the Namdong Gymnasium in Incheon, South Korea on Thursday (Dec 13).
Surprisingly, this is 19-year-old Wang's first win over Feng in three attempts, after losing 4-3 at the 2014 Korea Open and 3-1 at this year's World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden.
Despite world No. 10 and 15th seed Feng claiming the first point of the match, Wang raced to big leads in each of the first three games.
While she won the first game comfortably, Wang faced fierce resistance from Feng in the second game as the Singaporean fought back from 6-1 and 10-7 down to level the match.
Feng, who won the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals women's singles title in 2010, led at the start of the last two games, but Wang's counter-attacks were simply too ferocious as the teenager progressed to the quarter-finals.
To qualify for the singles events of the US$1 million (S$1.37 million) tournament, the top-16 players have to participate in at least five ITTF World Tour events.
Feng had round-of-16 finishes in Doha, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Geelong, and was a semi-finalist at the German Open. She will receive US$15,000 despite her first-round exit in Incheon.
Feng did not take any interviews after the match and could not be contacted at press time. Wang, who won in Doha, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, said in a courtside interview: "I had never beaten Feng and most recently lost to her at the World Championships. So we prepared more intensively and studied her more extensively.
"There was added motivation to set the record straight and I'm glad to win and move on in the competition."