S'pore's top three women paddlers beaten by lower-ranked rivals

They are widely considered as the Republic's best bet for an Olympic medal, after their silver-winning exploits in Beijing four years ago.

But, with two months to go before London 2012, it seems Singapore's women's table tennis team of Wang Yuegu, Feng Tianwei and Li Jiawei have yet to click into gear.

On Friday, Li (ranked 13th) was beaten by Germany's world No. 131 Sabine Winter in the first round of the China Open.

And yesterday, Feng (8th) lost to Belarusian Viktoria Pavlovich (26th) in the Round of 16, before Wang (7th) fell to China's Fan Ying (17th) in the quarter-finals.

In fact, this has been the worrying trend for the Olympic-bound women this year - being bundled out early by lower-ranked opponents, which does them no good if they want to retain their position as second seeds in the team event behind China.

Additionally, they have not beaten any players who are ranked higher than them this year.

The Singapore Table Tennis Association has sent representatives to seven ITTF World Tour events this year, but are still searching for their first win in women's singles events, although Wang, Feng and Li did strike silver in the World Championships and the Asian Championships.

While Li did well to reach the Chile Open final last month, Feng's form is more of a concern as she has yet to display performances that propelled her to second in the world rankings as recently as last August; Wang is still feeling the strains of an elbow injury.

STTA technical manager Loy Soo Han admitted they have work to do if they are to at least retain their Olympic silver medal.

He said: "There are still the Japan Open and Brazil Open next month before we have our centralised training.

"Of course there is pressure from all quarters for us to do well and we will do our best to get the team back to form in time for the Olympics."

STTA president Lee Bee Wah declined comment.

Meanwhile, there was good news for Singapore at the China Open as 18-year-old Chen Feng strode to his third final since representing the Republic by whitewashing Germany's Patrick Franziska 4-0 in the semi-finals.

But he narrowly lost to Taiwan's Chen Chien An in the final.

Singapore women's table tennis Olympic team's performance at ITTF World Tour events this year

WANG YUEGU
Korea Open: beaten in Round of 16 by Japan's Sayaka Hirano (15th)
China Open: beaten in quarter-finals by China's Fan Ying (17th)

FENG TIANWEI
Qatar Open: beaten in the first round by Germany's Han Ying (145th)
Kuwait Open: beaten in the first round by China's Chang Chen Chen (47th)
Spanish Open: beaten in the quarter-finals by China's Shen Yanfei (31st)
Chile Open: beaten in quarter-finals by Korea's Yang Ha Eun (29th)
Korea Open: beaten in Round of 16 by China's Ding Ning (1st)
China Open: beaten in Round of 16 by Belarus' Viktoria Pavlovich (26th)

LI JIAWEI
Hungarian Open: beaten in quarter-finals by China's Li Xiaoxia (2nd)
Qatar Open: beaten in first round by Korea's Dang Yeseo (53rd)
Kuwait Open: beaten in quarter-finals by China's Zhu Yuling (24th)
Spanish Open: beaten in Round of 16 by Japan's Misako Wakamiya (62nd)
Chile Open: beaten in final by Korea's Kim Kyung Ah (15th)
Korea Open: beaten in Round of 16 by China's Liu Shiwen (2nd)
China Open: beaten in first round by Germany's Sabine Winter (131st)

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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