Coach Hao upbeat despite losing to China
Singapore women's team take lead before faltering against defending champions
His charges suffered their first defeat at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden yesterday, but Singapore women's team coach Hao Anlin was far from displeased.
"Our players' overall performances have been not bad so far," the 31-year-old told The Straits Times in a text message, after the Republic's 1-3 loss to defending champions and world No. 1 China at the Halmstad Arena.
"This is especially so in terms of on-court momentum, mentality and deployment of strategies."
The team's preparations for the biennial team tournament - which alternates with the individual championships - have been "more comprehensive... given our failure at the Commonwealth Games", Hao added.
His players lost the team and singles golds to India at last month's Gold Coast Games; it was the first time Singapore had failed to win the Commonwealth team event.
An example of the better homework was how the team stayed up past midnight to go through videos and discuss strategies for Monday's tie against India.
It paid off, as Singapore won 3-0 with Yu Mengyu beating Manika Batra 3-2 in the second singles. Batra was Singapore's bete noire in Australia. The 22-year-old upset world No. 4 Feng Tianwei in the team and individual events and thrashed Yu 4-0 in the singles final.
Of course we would like to reach the semi-finals, but it is better to focus on preparing well for each match that comes.Singapore women’s coach Hao Anlin
After her struggles in Australia, Feng's form in Sweden has been encouraging. The 31-year-old recovered from a poor start to beat China's world No. 5 Wang Manyu 4-11, 13-11, 14-12, 14-12 and give Singapore the lead in yesterday's Group A tie. Wang is 19 and the two-time world junior champion.
Hao said: "Tianwei played to her potential in that match, and also has more experience in such big-match environments."
The Chinese regrouped though and comfortably won the next three matches. Former world No. 1 Ding Ning beat Lin Ye 11-7, 11-6, 11-4, top-ranked Chen Meng beat Zhang Wanling 11-3, 11-1, 11-3 before Ding sealed the win by beating Feng 11-9, 11-1, 11-9.
On fielding 18-year-old Zhang, Hao said: "Mengyu was rested because she played against a few defensive players earlier in the tournament, it took a physical toll on her, and her shoulder acted up."
Despite the loss, the women's team, who faced Belarus in their final group match earlier this morning, have qualified for the knockout stage starting today.
At the previous edition in 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore's women paddlers reached the quarter-finals and lost 2-3 to North Korea.
Singapore's men's team are still winless in the tournament after they lost 0-3 to England yesterday, following defeats by Taiwan, Belgium and Belarus earlier in the event. They face Japan in their final Group C match today.