by Tan Thiam Peng for Team Singapore website
Maybe a little too much pressure to retain a team medal is affecting the performance of our women table tennis players.
Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu and Li Jiawei today could not reach the final like they did in 2008, getting swept 3-0 by Japan in the last-four.
The comprehensive result means Singapore will have to contest the bronze-medal match on Tuesday for a chance to add to Feng’s individual third-place medal.
“We were a little conservative and hence were suppressed by our opponents,” coach Jing Junhong commented after the defeat.
“Japan played more freely than us. They just came straight at us.”
Frustrated by the performance, Wang and Li refused to speak after the semi-final, leaving Feng to dissect the uncharacteristic showing.
“We didn’t expect [Japan] would play that well."
“To be trailing after I lost was never good.”
Singapore’s decision to send their singles medallist out first came to nought when she crashed 3-1 to Ai Fukuhara. Feng, who has a 7-1 win record against the world number seven, had no answer to her opponent’s game, losing 9-11, 6-11, 11-5, 9-11.
“Maybe I’m more drained physically and mentally, and wasn’t in my top condition. I didn’t perform to my best,” she said.
Jing agreed that her star paddler “might not have been in the best shape”, but followed up that fatigue is not an excuse.
And the task at hand only got tougher.
Wang was next against Kasumi Ishikawa, whom she had lost to in the singles tournament. The script was not about to change.
The Singaporean was always behind in a difficult tie, eventually swept 5-11, 6-11, 2-11.
Any hopes of repeating the silver medal feat of Beijing then switched to the hands of our doubles pair, Li and Wang. But in another disappointing display, the two were also blown away by the determined Japanese, 3-11, 11-13, 4-11.
Jing dismissed the suggestion of second-guessing Japan and fielding Feng in the second singles, which would have pitted her against Ishikawa, the player she had overcome easily for the singles bronze.
“Tianwei’s record against Fukuhara means putting her first is logical.
“Winning the first point boosts confidence. Maybe Tianwei gave herself too much pressure on securing two wins.”
The coach also laughed at the idea that having won one medal already, there is less expectations to deliver another, while Feng said she has “forgotten” about her bronze.
The Republic’s women will face either China or South Korea for a podium spot, although the Chinese are heavy favourites to go all the way.
Looking ahead, Jing said, “We have to play to our strengths in the next match. Singapore, South Korea and Japan are on the same level, so it depends on who peak on the day.
“I think our players need to develop a big-tournament mentality. They cannot be conservative because they fear losing. They really need to show what they’re made of on Tuesday.”