Table tennis: Singapore's Feng Tianwei excited to compete on home soil again

Table tennis: Singapore's Feng Tianwei excited to compete on home soil again

December 3, 2021

SINGAPORE – Feng Tianwei does not remember the last time she played in Singapore.

But the support she receives each time she competes here is heartfelt and she is looking forward to experiencing it again when she plays in the inaugural World Table Tennis Cup Finals at the OCBC Arena.

The world No. 11 told The Straits Times: “It’s nice to be back in Singapore competing again where there are so many people supporting me. Playing in Singapore always feels more familiar and I’m more used to it.”

The last time Feng and other top paddlers competed in Singapore was during the T2 Diamond Singapore event at Our Tampines Hub in November 2019.

Since then, she has been based mostly in Japan and unsurprisingly, misses local fare – her favourite being durian and bak kut teh (pork rib soup).

But the 35-year-old will have to wait a while more before she gets to eat her favourite food again.

The Dec 4-7 event features 16 of the world’s top male and female players and all of them are on a controlled itinerary, moving between only the hotel and training and competition venue with dedicated transport arrangements.

Feng said: “Right now, we’re not allowed to go out so I’ll concentrate on competing first before thinking about what to eat.”

But first, she has to overcome a case of jet lag, having arrived from Houston where the World Championships took place last week.She is trying to adapt to the 14-hour time difference by forcing herself to stay awake during the day.

She has good reason to ensure she is at her peak: The total prize pool for this inaugural event is US$600,000 (S$820,000). The male and female winners will earn US$45,000 each.

The event is headlined by Chinese men’s and women’s world No. 1 players Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng, while other top stars include Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu and Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto.

Feng has been drawn to play world No. 14 Jeon Ji-hee in the round of 16 on Saturday and could meet Olympic champion Chen in the quarter-finals.

Chen opens her campaign against Japanese world No. 7 Kasumi Ishikawa, whom she had beaten 4-1 in the quarter-finals of the World Championships last week.

Feng has a 10-2 win-loss record against South Korean Jeon but the Singaporean still feels like the underdog.

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Feng, who was knocked out in the last 32 in Houston, said: “Those are results of the past. I just want to do my best to show my skills, I didn’t set any specific targets.

“Before the match, my coach (He Keyi) and I will analyse her playing style and see how to counter her.”

Meanwhile, Fan will be looking to continue his winning momentum when he meets German world No. 16 Patrick Franziska.

The 24-year-old Chinese said he hoped winning the men’s singles gold at the World Championships would be a springboard for further success.

He said: “The journey (to winning the gold) was quite difficult (in Houston). In the end, the win is a boost for me and I hope that with this title, I will be able to continue to go on to greater heights.

“The way you look at competitions this week can be different from last week. Now you may have a more comprehensive understanding of the game with past experience.

“Every competition has different challenges. You can’t say that once you succeed, the next time you should (do it again). Nothing is for sure, there are a lot of things you have to do by yourself. I hope that by going through more competitions, I can help myself improve.”

All players, officials and staff are operating under a strict set of Covid-19 protocols. They had to submit to a pre-departure test two days prior to leaving for Singapore, undergo an on-arrival polymerase chain reaction test and isolate at the official event hotel until proof of negative result was available.

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All players and officials will also undergo supervised Antigen Rapid Tests (ARTs) while in Singapore. Staff and volunteers have to be fully vaccinated and will also have to undertake an on-site supervised ART on their first day of attendance and every two days after that.

With safe management measures in place, a maximum of 900 fans will be allowed to attend each session of the WTT Cup Finals at the OCBC Arena. All participants must be fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the Singapore Government or undertake pre-event testing.

Tickets are priced from $38 to $258 and can be bought from the OCBC Arena box office, Sistic authorised agents, online and its hotline (+65 6348 5555).

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