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SEA Games: S'pore table tennis women upset by M'sia, face tougher route to final

PHNOM PENH – In a stunning reverse of the 2022 Commonwealth Games final, Singapore’s women’s table tennis team were beaten 3-0 by Causeway rivals Malaysia in their SEA Games Group B round-robin match on Tuesday.

At the Morodok Techo National Stadium Table Tennis Hall, Zhou Jingyi, Zeng Jian and Wong Xin Ru were pushed to the brink by rivals Karen Lyne, Alice Chang and Tee Ai Xin, who managed to produce the extra oomph to seal their first Games victory against Singapore this millennium.

After Tee claimed the win, the Malaysian tigresses let out a piercing roar, punching the air in delight and celebrating with high-fives.

Chang told The Straits Times they were surprised to win and by such a margin, but noted that it was a moment they worked hard for.

She said: “We lost to Singapore in the group stage at the last SEA Games in 2022, and then lost to them again in the Commonwealth Games final, which were regrettable. So, since then... building up to these SEA Games, we train every day with a strong desire of wanting to beat Singapore.

“We have not made the women’s team final for 30 years and we also want this so badly. To do so, we know we have to beat Singapore or Thailand along the way.

“Today, we played like we had nothing to lose against strong opponents, and we stepped up. Now, we most likely have to beat Vietnam to reach the final, we cannot relax.”

While Singapore still progressed to the last four with an earlier 3-0 win over Cambodia, they did so as group runners-up, which means a more difficult semi-final on Wednesday against defending champions and Group A winners Thailand. It will be a tougher route to reclaiming the gold they lost in 2021 after nine straight triumphs.

In the Causeway derby, Zhou got off to a fine start against Lyne, taking the first game despite her opponent saving eight game points in a row, but she eventually lost 3-2 (16-18, 11-8, 9-11, 15-13, 11-6) and left the arena with ice packs on both knees.

Similarly, Zeng was also leading 2-1 before chopper Chang came from behind to deliver a 3-2 (12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3) upset.

Wong tried to stem the tide, but Malaysia’s momentum was too strong as Tee beat her 3-1 (12-10, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9).

National women’s team coach Jing Junhong said: “Malaysia have improved and the levels between both teams are similar. The difference today was we were more tense, and they were more aggressive.

“We expected this to be a tough match and our players wanted to win so badly, they were not able to play freely. Maybe they put unnecessary pressure on themselves and were hesitant while applying our strategy.

“We are definitely underdogs against Thailand. We need to get over our disappointment, try to pose them some problems, learn about our inadequacies and improve.”

The men’s team fared better in their Group B matches, as Koen Pang, Clarence Chew and Izaac Quek all won against Laos (3-0) and Malaysia (3-0) on Tuesday.

They are expected to beat the Philippines in their final round-robin match on Wednesday to advance as group winners into the semi-finals, where they will meet defending champions Thailand, who are second in Group A after losing to Vietnam.

While Pang and Chew had straightforward 3-0 wins over Malaysians Javen Choong (11-5, 11-2, 11-6) and Leong Chee Feng (11-9, 11-8, 11-7) respectively, Quek faced more resistance from southpaw Wong Qi Shen.

However, the 17-year-old debutant showed maturity and composure to rebound from 2-1 down to win 3-2 (8-11, 12-10, 4-11, 13-11, 11-4).

Men’s national coach Gao Ning said: “We went all out and played our normal levels today. Beating the 2022 silver medallists is good for our confidence, but there is still work to be done.”

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