Koen Pang relishing tough competition at World Table Tennis Singapore Smash, Latest Team Singapore News - The New Paper
Team Singapore

Koen Pang relishing tough competition at World Table Tennis Singapore Smash

Koen Pang is relishing a packed itinerary when he competes at the March 7-17 World Table Tennis Singapore Smash.

For the second year running, the world No. 79 will participate in the maximum three events – men’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles – in the US$1.5 million (S$2 million) tournament at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Pang, 21, who had earlier been awarded a singles wild card, was handed two more to compete alongside compatriots Izaac Quek (men’s doubles) and Wong Xin Ru (mixed doubles).

Seven Singaporean pairs – three in men’s doubles, two each in women’s doubles and mixed doubles – were given invites.

In 2022, Pang was edged out in the first round by India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (world No. 104).

But a year later, he upset Nicholas Lum (No. 36) before exiting in the round of 32 against Germany’s Dang Qiu (No. 10) despite a spirited performance.

Pang, whose main target in 2024 is to qualify for the Olympics, said: “Last year, it was very meaningful to be able to beat Nicholas in front of the home crowd, and it definitely was rewarding to play one of the world’s best in the next round.

“Every match is going to be tough in the Singapore Smash. Everyone is super strong. There is no easy opponent, so even winning one match is going to be tough. We’ll take it one match at a time.”

Compatriot Zhou Jingyi, who clinched a SEA Games silver medal in women’s doubles at the 2023 edition, is hoping to qualify for Paris 2024 by putting up a good showing at the Singapore Smash.

She will also compete in three events, with Zeng Jian (women’s doubles) and Quek (mixed doubles). Zhou featured only in the women’s doubles alongside Ser Lin Qian in 2023, losing in the first round.

Zhou, 18, said: “I aim to win a match this year in any event. After a year of more competitions and training, I think overall my match experience has improved.

“I feel very thankful to be given such a great opportunity again and I hope to play better on court this year against tough opponents.

“I’ll fight for every point and just enjoy every moment on court.”

The tournament also features world No. 1 men’s doubles duo Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin. The Chinese pair are aiming for a hat-trick of titles here, while Wang and Sun Yingsha, the top-ranked mixed doubles combination, are favourites to retain their crown.

Other notable pairings include South Koreans Jeon Ji-hee and Shin Yu-bin (No. 1 in women’s doubles), Japan’s Hina Hayata and Tomokazu Harimoto (No. 2 in mixed doubles) and French brothers Felix and Alexis Lebrun (No. 6 in men’s doubles).

Pang said: “It is super important to have such a big event in Singapore. This would really help bring the popularity of table tennis in Singapore higher, as more people would come to watch when the world’s best are playing.”

Tickets are available at premier.ticketek.com.sg/shows/show.aspx?sh=WTT24

Local wild cards

Men’s Singles

Koen Pang, Izaac Quek

Women’s Singles

Zeng Jian, Zhou Jingyi

Men’s Doubles

Pang/Quek, Clarence Chew/Ethan Poh, Josh Chua/Lucas Tan

Women’s Doubles

Zeng/Zhou, Wong Xin Ru/Ser Lin Qian

Mixed Doubles

Quek/Zhou, Pang/Wong