Li Jiawei’s Volkswagen Women’s World Cup campaign has shockingly come to an end.
The world No 6 – who helped Singapore to win a historic silver medal at the Beijing Olympics last month – was considered a strong contender for a top-three finish at the Kuala Lumpur event after the withdrawal of world no 1 Zhang Yining and world No 5 Wang Nan, last year’s World Cup champion.
But the 27-year-old’s dreams of advancing from the group stages collapsed after two shock defeats in the space of four hours today.
In the biggest upset of the day, Jiawei went down 8-11, 4-11, 7-11 and 4-11 to Gao Jun of the US in the opening Group C encounter.
Gao, 39, is ranked17th in the world but the veteran paddler made light of the gap in world rankings between her and Jiawei by cruising to an easy 4-0 whitewash.
Jiawei’s nightmare start got worse four hours later. Needing a win to stay in contention for one of the two qualifying spots from her group, she went down 1-4 instead to Hong Kong’s Tie Yana.
Ironically, Jiawei had gotten off to a good start against Tie, winning the first set 20-18. But it was as though that titanic battle took everything out of her as she crashed 9-11, 6-11, 5-11, 4-11 in the next four sets.
Jiawei has one more game to play tomorrow – against Georgina Pota of Hungary who is also out of contention after losing to Gao and Tie – and if she loses, she will end up bottom of the group.
In stark contrast, Wang Yuegu became the first Singaporean to book her berth in the quarter-finals of the competition after racking up two wins today.
The world No 7 scored an easy 4-1 win (11-9, 11-8, 12-14, 11-6, 11-8) over Romania’s Daniela Dodean in her opening Group D match but was made to work for her second win by South Korean chopper Kim Kyung Ah.
The veteran Kim, a bronze medallist in the women’s singles at the 2004 Olympics, took Wang to the wire in a thrilling clash but in the end, Wang prevailed 4-3 (12-10, 9-11, 11-5,9-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5).
Whether Wang will be joined by compatriot Feng Tianwei in the quarter-finals remains to be seen. This is because Feng desperately needs to beat Holland’s Li Jiao in a do-or-die battle tomorrow. Both Feng and Li won one of their two Group B matches today.
Feng, ranked 9th in the world, easily defeated Australia’s Miao Miao 4-0 (11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5) in her opening match but lost 1-4 to Chinese world no 3 Li Xiaoxia tonight.
After losing her first set 9-11, Feng bounced back to take the second set 11-7. But despite fighting tooth-and-nail with Li, she eventualy went down 10-12, 6-11 and 14-16 in the next three sets.
World no 16 Li Jiao lost 0-4 (8-11, 6-11, 9-11, 6-11) to Li Xiaoxia in her first group match but bounced back to beat Miao Miao 4-2 ( 13-11, 11-2, 11-8, 4-11, 10-12, 11-3) to set up the crucial clash with Feng tomorrow.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan