Table tennis: Singapore's Zeng loses to top-ranked Liu in China Open despite three-game lead

Singapore paddler Zeng Jian during the match against Liu Shiwen on Sept 17, 2016.
Singapore paddler Zeng Jian during the match against Liu Shiwen on Sept 17, 2016.PHOTO: ITTF

Unheralded Singapore paddler Zeng Jian took Liu Shiwen to the brink of elimination in the China Open quarter-finals on Saturday, before the Chinese world No. 1's vast experience helped her recover to edge through.

In Chengdu, the 20-year-old China-born Zeng, whose world ranking has shot up unnoticed to No. 27, raced into a 3-0 lead against a slightly sluggish Liu, with scores of 12-10, 11-6 and 11-9.

With the back to the wall, Liu regained her composure and clawed back into the match, taking the fourth game 11-5.

The in-form Zeng, who won the Under-21 women's singles on Thursday for her third such title this year on the the ITTF World Tour, closed in on a famous win as she led 8-5 in the fifth game. But Liu dug deep and rebounded to take the game 11-9.

In the sixth game, Zeng was again within three points of victory at 8-8 but Liu prevailed 11-9 eventually, before coasting to take the deciding game 11-5 easily.

It was the second straight day the 25-year-old Chinese had got out of jail, after squeezing out Marina Matsuzawa of Japan 4-3 in the round of 16.

South Korea's Yang Ha Eun upset Zhu Yuling 4-3 to prevent an all-China sweep of the semi-final spots. Chen Meng thrashed Jiang Huajun of Hong Kong 4-0 and Ding Ning beat Germany's Shan Xiaona 4-1 to complete the line-up.