Table tennis: Singapore women undone by defensive Ukraine 3-2 in last 16 of world c'ships

National paddler Yu Mengyu returning a shot against Ukraine's defensive specialist Ganna Gaponova yesterday. She carried a shoulder injury into the Halmstad Arena in Sweden and lost both her matches in the last-16 tie.
National paddler Yu Mengyu returning a shot against Ukraine's defensive specialist Ganna Gaponova yesterday. She carried a shoulder injury into the Halmstad Arena in Sweden and lost both her matches in the last-16 tie.PHOTO: REUTERS

Yu's injury a key factor as they fail to reach q-finals for the first time since 2006

As the No. 2 singles player in the team, Yu Mengyu has had to shoulder the responsibility of earning at least one point in Singapore's matches at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden.

Yesterday, her troublesome right shoulder became the burden as the Republic were bundled out 2-3 by Ukraine in the round of 16.

It is the first time since 2006 that the team have failed at the first knockout stage of the biennial competition and finished ninth.

Singapore won the Corbillon Cup in 2010 and were second to China in 2008 and 2012. Feng Tianwei and Co were joint-third in 2014 and reached the last eight in 2016.

Feng, 31, gave Singapore the lead when she beat Tetyana Bilenko 11-7, 11-9, 11-2. But defensive specialist Ganna Gaponova levelled the tie when she beat the 28-year-old Yu 11-6, 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8.

"I injured my shoulder during the Commonwealth Games, where I went to the final in all four events I competed in," world No. 50 Yu told The Straits Times in a phone interview.

"I had little time for recovery and treatment and made it worse when I played a chopper (Sweden's Linda Bergstrom) in our first match.

"I couldn't get used to (Gaponova's) tempo, variations in the length of her shots, and could not find opportunities to attack her."

Yu featured in all the Group A matches except the 1-3 loss to defending champions China on Tuesday, and returned in the 3-0 win over Belarus yesterday morning.

Ukraine then led 2-1 when world No. 182 Margaryta Pesotska beat Lin Ye, ranked 93rd in the world, 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6.

Women's national coach Hao Anlin said: "Their standards are quite similar and it all boiled down to the performances today, and Lin Ye was a bit nervous on court."

Feng made it 2-2 when she thrashed Gaponova 11-4, 11-8, 11-3.

Yu revealed she had a bad feeling before she took to the court against Bilenko in the rubber match.

"She was not easy to play against. I lost to her two years ago," said Yu, referring to her 0-3 loss to Bilenko in a group-stage tie at the Kuala Lumpur edition in 2016.

"Also, we haven't been training much against choppers."

She fell in straight games again yesterday, losing 10-12, 9-11, 8-11.

On the lack of training against defensive specialists, Hao said: "There weren't many choppers at the Commonwealth Games, so we focused on other areas in our preparations, and the turnaround time for this competition is quite short."

The loss to Ukraine was a bitter pill to swallow, given the paddlers' positive performances earlier.

On Monday, Yu defeated India's Manika Batra, Singapore's nemesis at the Gold Coast Games, while Feng beat China's Wang Manyu, a two-time world junior champion, the following day.

Hao said: "It is definitely a pity, because we do have the overall ability to beat Ukraine."

The Singapore men will play their 13th-24th placing matches, following their 0-3 loss to Japan in their final Group C tie yesterday.

The result left Gao Ning and Co winless in this tournament so far, which matched their showing at the same stage in 2016.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline 'Ukraine upset S'pore 3-2'. Print Edition | Subscribe