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Olympics: Favourable draw boosts Yu's hopes but Feng has Olympic champ in her half of the draw

Table tennis player Yu Mengyu will be competing in her maiden Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Table tennis player Yu Mengyu will be competing in her maiden Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

With a Hokkien pronunciation that sounds similar to "luck", the number six is considered by many, especially the Chinese, to be an auspicious number.

It was with this lucky number, inscribed on a bright red ball, that Singapore table tennis team manager Eddy Tay secured paddler Yu Mengyu a berth in the bottom quarter of the top half of the Olympic women's singles draw yesterday.

It meant that while rules of the draw stated the Olympic debutante had to be in the same half as top seed Ding Ning of China, the Singaporean world No. 13 and ninth seed could at least avoid that opponent until the semi-finals.

Both Yu and team-mate Feng Tianwei, who are seeded among the top 16, have been given byes into the third round.


Said Tay at RioCentro Pavilion 4, where the draw ceremony was held: "For Mengyu, it's a fairly good draw. This will give her extra motivation.

"Apart from China, the standard is very close among the rest. It will really depend on how well we perform (on the day of competition)."

Meanwhile, world No. 4 Feng, the women's singles second seed, will have to contend with reigning Olympic champion Li Xiaoxia of China in her half.

Austria's Liu Jia and Japan's Ai Fukuhara are potential opponents in the latter stages. Both are players she has a superior head-to-head record against.

But before Feng contemplates the business end of the competition, she will first need to overcome a potential landmine.

The Singaporean could begin her campaign in the third round against Spain's Shen Yanfei, an adversary she has an inferior record (3-4) against on the professional circuit. However, the pair have not met in the last four years.

Shen notably upset Feng for third place at the 2012 Women's World Cup.

The road to retaining a medal in the team event, however, will likely be tougher for Feng and Co.

They are likely to clash with powerhouse China in the semi-finals, after being drawn in the same half as the reigning champions.

South Korea, another tricky side, are potential opponents in the quarter-finals.

The Singapore team, made up of Feng, Yu and Zhou Yihan, will meet Egypt in their opening round.

In the men's singles, No. 35 Gao Ning will begin his campaign from the second round. Team-mate Chen Feng, ranked No. 121, will make his debut against Finland's No. 72 Benedek Olah, after getting a bye in the preliminary round.

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Correction note: An earlier version of the story said Yu Mengyu could avoid Ding Ning until the quarter-finals. It should be the semi-finals. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'Yu gains from 'luck' of the draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe