Singapore’s Zeng Jian wins first World Table Tennis title in Qatar
SEA Games women’s singles champion Zeng Jian has given her Paris 2024 Olympics qualification hopes a boost after winning the WTT Feeder Doha II title on Thursday.
In the final, the 26-year-old Singaporean produced a convincing 3-0 (11-6, 11-5, 11-5) win over Welsh world No. 163 Anna Hursey for her first title on the World Table Tennis (WTT) tour.
In the earlier rounds of the three-day tournament at the Aspire Ladies Sports Hall in Qatar, the world No. 64 defeated 697th-ranked South Korea’s Choi Seo-yeon, China’s Gao Yuxin (386th), Italy’s Giorgia Piccolin (106th) and Chinese Taipei’s Huang Yi-hua (74th).
Zeng told The Straits Times: “I didn’t expect to win this tournament because we have been competing quite a bit and I could feel the fatigue setting in. It was tough, but coming back to beat the young Chinese player was a big boost and I was more composed after that.”
While this lower-tier event offered just US$550 (S$750) for singles winners, Zeng also collected 125 ranking points that will come in handy in her bid to break the top 50 rankings. Individual world rankings are a route to qualify for the Paris Olympics, if the national women’s team fail to secure their quota through qualification events or ranking.
After winning four under-21 titles on the International Table Tennis Federation World Tour in 2016 and 2017, Zeng is enjoying a breakthrough 2023 with triumphs at the SEA Games and on tour.
Following the retirement of stalwarts Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu, Hunan-born Zeng is now the de facto leader of the women’s team, who are otherwise all local-born.
National women’s head coach Jing Junhong said: “We are happy for Zeng Jian to record this achievement and breakthrough after a long period of hard work. We hope this will give her more confidence and motivation to climb higher.
“She has been performing well and handling crucial points better. The season is still not over, with tour events and club competitions in Slovenia, China and France. The hectic schedule is the similar for players who are chasing Olympic spots, and we will try to manage this as best as we can.”
At the same tournament, world No. 110 Koen Pang reached the men’s singles quarter-final where he was beaten by Austria’s 114th-ranked Andreas Levenko.
Compatriot Clarence Chew was knocked out by Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang in the round of 32, while in the women’s singles, Wong Xin Ru and Goi Rui Xuan lost in the earlier rounds.
Chew and Zeng, and Pang and Wong suffered 3-2 losses in the mixed doubles round of 16, while Goi and Wong also exited the women’s doubles at the same stage.
Elsewhere at the WTT Contender Antalya in Turkey, world No. 62 Izaac Quek lost to Portugal’s 55th-ranked Tiago Apolonia in the men’s singles round of 32.