Olympics: Feng Tianwei overcomes slow start to reach round of 16
Singapore paddler reaches last 16, where she could face a more formidable foe
Singapore's world No. 9 paddler Feng Tianwei started her Tokyo 2020 campaign yesterday with a comeback 4-1 win over Spain's 72nd-ranked Maria Xiao in the third round.
Feng initially struggled to get into the rhythm of her round-of-32 match at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
But, after losing the first game, the 34-year-old got the job done by sealing an 8-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-2, 11-4 victory.
Her last-16 opponent tonight will either be Australia's 156th-ranked Lay Jian Fang or Germany's world No. 22 Han Ying.
Lay, 48, and Han, 38, will play their third-round match this afternoon.
Of the duo, Feng has a poorer head-to-head record against Han, who has beaten the Singaporean in four earlier meetings.
Yesterday, the four-time Olympian nearly lost the second game as well, with Xiao gaining the upper hand at 10-9.
But, at that moment, Feng turned the match on its head, scoring three consecutive points to win 12-10.
That was the turning point as Feng swept past her 27-year-old opponent, winning the next three games convincingly.
In her penultimate game, Feng was up by nine points and took the game 11-2 in what was the largest margin in the match.
Said Feng: "For the first two games, I was nervous, then it got smoother. The second game was especially crucial.
"If I went 2-0 down, then it would have been pretty disadvantageous."
She also praised her opponent, saying: "Her condition was very good and she got into form really quickly.
"She was in competition rhythm. At the start, I felt like an underdog."
Xiao had beaten Hong Kong's 30th-ranked Minnie Soo 4-2 in the previous round to set up the meeting with Feng.
While Feng had won a team silver, team bronze and individual bronze in her three previous Games appearances, Tokyo 2020 appeals to her in a different way.
She said: "These Tokyo Games are more special. To have an Olympics amid a pandemic is really not easy. I want to showcase my level this time. This is my fourth Games, so I hope to be able to enjoy it."
Her compatriot, Yu Mengyu, will hope to join her in the next stage of the women's singles when she plays Taiwan's Cheng I-ching today.
Meanwhile, in the inaugural mixed doubles final yesterday, Japan's Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito claimed the title after defeating China's Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen 4-3 (5-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6).