Table tennis: World No. 1 Chen Meng knocked out of WTT Cup Finals

SINGAPORE – The inaugural World Table Tennis Cup Finals will see a thrilling conclusion after world No. 1 Chen Meng suffered a shock defeat by compatriot and world No. 6 Wang Yidi in the women’s semi-finals on Monday (Dec 6).

Wang prevailed 4-3 (11-8, 8-11, 12-14, 11-4, 5-11, 11-8, 12-10) in a titanic clash that lasted about 90 minutes at the OCBC Arena. It was her first win over the Olympic champion in an international event.

It was also the second upset of the event after newly crowned world champion Wang Manyu was knocked out by Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem in the round of 16 on Sunday.

Wang, 24, said: “I’m really happy to win today. I think I performed pretty well overall. The match was really intense but I put up a good fight.”

While she did not know who the other finalist was at the time, she added: “I’m going to prepare more sufficiently for the final because the opponent is going to be very strong.”

Chen left the venue without speaking to the media in the mixed zone.

After Wang levelled the scores at 2-2 and a brief medical time-out from Chen, which saw her receive treatment for a problem with her right knee, the world No. 1 came back seemingly stronger to regain the lead.

But a series of costly unforced errors from Chen, 27, allowed Wang to force a deciding game.

Wang started the seventh game well, storming to an 8-3 lead. But Chen then scored seven consecutive points, setting up two match points for herself.

However, the biggest name in the women’s field failed to convert both and Wang seized the opportunity to convert her only match point after Chen missed on her return.

Wang said: “It was a very close game and I was trying not to think too hard. In the seventh game, I was leading by 8-3 but she started playing more aggressively and I was more cautious.

“But when she really caught up, I started to relax myself and that allowed me to play well.”

Wang Yidi (left) reacts after defeating compatriot Chen Meng in the women’s singles semi-finals of the World Table Tennis Cup Finals at OCBC Arena on Dec 6, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

She will play compatriot Sun Yingsha for the title and US$45,000 ($61,626) purse. Sun, the world No. 2, beat Japanese Hina Hayata 4-1 (6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8) to set up the all-Chinese final.

Sun, 21, has a 2-1 record against Wang and despite playing two matches on Monday compared to the latter’s one, she insisted she was physically and mentally fine.

The winner of the T2 Diamond Singapore event in 2019 added: “We’re teammates so we know each other’s playing styles very well. It’s the last match so I’m just going to give it my best and leave no regrets.

“I’m also really thankful to the fans here. Throughout the match, I could hear them cheering for me and it gave me strength. I hope I can continue performing my best and putting up a good match for them.”

In the men’s singles, world No. 1 Fan Zhendong narrowly beat world No. 17 Wang Chuqin 4-2 (9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9).

Fan, 24, the newly crowned world champion, said: “It was a very intense match. He gave me a lot of pressure, especially with his backhand, but I just tried not to panic and stay calm while adjusting to his rhythm so it won’t be so easy for him to win each point.”

He will play Japanese world No. 5 Tomokazu Harimoto, who beat fourth-ranked Hugo Calderano 4-1 (11-6, 11-9, 14-16, 11-5, 11-3). 

Harimoto, 18, said: “I feel quite good today. I didn’t play well in the world championships so I decided to start with more aggressive play and I’m glad I managed to win it.

“Fan Zhendong is the best player in the world right now. I just have to be more aggressive and do my best against him and hopefully I can win.”

The US$600,000 tournament started on Dec 4 and ends on Tuesday.

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