Koen Pang sets up Timo Boll clash after upset win
Singapore's top male paddler Koen Pang paid scant regard to the gulf in rankings as the world No. 161 upset Brazil's 38th-ranked Gustavo Tsuboi 4-2 (8-11, 11-7, 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 11-8) to reach the last 32 of the World Table Tennis Championships in Houston on Wednesday.
For his efforts, the 19-year-old Singaporean earned a match-up with his idol - former world No. 1 Timo Boll - in the next round. The 40-year-old German, now ranked 11th, has four Olympic medals and eight World Championship medals, including a men's singles bronze in 2011.
Despite undergoing national service and having to play in the men's singles and mixed doubles, Pang showed no signs of fatigue or ring rust and took the game to the 36-year-old Tsuboi, who had reached the last 16 at Tokyo 2020.
He told The Straits Times: "We analysed him well, came up with a game plan and stuck to it.
"He likes to serve quick, long balls and play at speed, which I had to keep up with. I also tried to change the placement of the balls whenever I could to disrupt his momentum and mess up his game and it worked today.
"I'm ecstatic to beat a higher-ranked player and excited to play Timo, whom I have watched play since I was young."
Pang's fine form has extended to the mixed doubles. He and Lin Ye, ranked 68th as a pair, overcame Egyptian world No. 23s Yousra Helmy and Khalid Assar 3-2 (8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7).
They then beat Turkey's world No. 93s Ibrahim Gunduz and Sibel Altinkaya 3-2 (11-7, 11-13, 11-7, 10-12, 12-10).
They will face Chinese Taipei's world No. 2 duo Lin Yun-ju and Cheng I-ching in the round of 16.
In the women's singles, Singapore's world No. 11 Feng Tianwei beat Chinese Taipei's 169th-ranked Li Yu-jhun 4-2 (7-11, 9-11, 13-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7). The 35-year-old will face South Korea's Suh Hyo-won in the round of 32.
World No. 193 Goi Rui Xuan lost 4-1 (11-8, 11-7, 11-5, 11-13, 11-5) to Thailand's 39th-ranked Suthasini Sawettabut, while world No. 61 Lin was beaten 4-0 (11-7, 11-9, 11-4, 11-3) by world No. 1 and Olympic champion Chen Meng of China.
But there was better news for Goi in the women's doubles as she and Wong Xin Ru, ranked 69th as a pair, beat India's 103rd-ranked Madhurika Patkar and Sutirtha Mukherjee 3-0 (11-3, 11-7, 11-4).
They will next meet German world No. 18 duo Sabine Winter and Nina Mittelham. - DAVID LEE