Table tennis: Revenge on S'pore's mind in rematch with Thailand at World C'ships

Singapore's women's table tennis team comprising (from left) Zeng Jian, Goi Rui Xuan, Wong Xin Ru, Zhang Wanling, Zhou Jingyi. PHOTO: SINGAPORE TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - The Singapore women's table tennis team will get a chance to avenge their SEA Games final loss to Thailand after they were drawn alongside their Asean rivals in Group 4 for the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

At Wednesday's draw in Chengdu, China, where the Sept 30-Oct 9 tournament will be held, Singapore were placed into Group 4 along with South Korea, Thailand, Luxembourg and Iran.

The top two and four best third-placed teams from each of the six groups will advance to knockout rounds.

At the Hanoi SEA Games in May, nine-time team champions Singapore – who were without top player Feng Tianwei – saw their winning streak end with a 3-0 defeat by the Thais. Feng, their talisman who delivered three golds at the Commonwealth Games in August, will also be skipping the world championships.

On Wednesday, the 36-year-old flew to Beijing to pursue a master's degree in sports industry management at the Peking University. At the same time, she will also work part-time with Sport Singapore, helping the national sports agency to develop sport pathways for children and youths.

The Straits Times had reported after the Birmingham Games that the veteran was mulling retirement.

In her absence, the team will comprise Commonwealth Games double gold medallist Zeng Jian and local-born players Wong Xin Ru, Goi Rui Xuan, Zhang Wanling and Zhou Jingyi.

National women’s coach Jing Junhong said: “It’s not a particularly good draw, but we have to be up for the challenge and fight for every point. Besides Wanling, our other players are debutantes here, and would be lacking in experience.

“Just like how it is a matter of time before Tianwei retires, it is also inevitable that our team face a transition. We need to work hard and mature as a team as quickly as we can.”

Noting that every match is important in the group stage, Zeng said: “Personally, I want to see if my levels and variations have improved since the major Games.”

Hot favourites China are in Group 1, where they will face the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Malaysia. The hosts have dominated the women's team event this millennium, with their only blip coming in the 2010 tournament when they were stunned 3-1 by Singapore in the final.

The Republic were also finalists in 2008 and 2012, and joint-third in 2014.

The 2020 edition was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at the previous edition held in Sweden in 2018, Singapore were stunned 3-2 by Ukraine in the round of 16.

In the men's draw, Singapore will hope to improve on their 2018 showing after they were drawn into Group 7 with Chinese Taipei, Croatia and Belgium.

Four years ago, they lost all five matches, including defeats by the Taiwanese and Belgians.

Elsewhere in Group 1, 21-time champions China will also face the US and Puerto Rico, as well as Slovenia and Thailand. The top two and two best third-placed men's teams go through to last 16.

Women's draw

China, USA, Puerto Rico, Canada, Malaysia

Japan, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Uzbekistan

Hong Kong, Brazil, France, Italy, South Africa

South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Luxembourg, Iran

Germany, Egypt, India, Czech Republic

Romania, Chinese Taipei, Sweden, Portugal

Men's draw

China, Slovenia, United States, Puerto Rico, Thailand

Germany, France, India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan

Japan, Hong Kong, Romania, Iran, Hungary

South Korea, Egypt, Czech Republic, Canada, Saudi Arabia

Sweden, England, Australia, Poland

Brazil, Portugal, Denmark, Slovakia

Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Belgium, Singapore

Singapore's representatives:

Women's team: Zeng Jian, Zhou Jingyi, Wong Xin Ru, Goi Rui Xuan, Zhang Wanling

Men's team: Clarence Chew, Koen Pang, Izaac Quek, Beh Kun Ting, Andy Wong

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