Table tennis: Singapore's Yu Mengyu beats Japan’s Ishikawa to book Tokyo Olympics semi-final spot
TOKYO: Pure, unbridled joy. While Yu Mengyu’s smile was hidden by her mask, her happiness was evident for all to see as she spoke to journalists.
On Wednesday (Jul 28), the Singaporean qualified for the semi-finals of the women’s singles table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics after beating Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa 4-1.
In doing so, she went one step further than she ever has at the Games. Yu made the quarter-finals in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but she fell to North Korea’s Kim Song-i and failed to put herself in contention for a medal.
Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's game, Yu could not contain her excitement.
“I’m just extremely happy. I never thought I’d get into the top four,” she said.
“My ranking is extremely low and because of the pandemic, I have not been able to compete that much ... I was also injured and recovering, so I didn’t have any specific target for myself.”
Yu is one win away from a guaranteed medal. If she fails on Thursday to beat her next opponent, China's world number one Chen Meng, she will get another shot in the bronze medal match.
This is the first time a Singaporean has reached the semi-finals of an Olympic Games table tennis singles event since Feng Tianwei in 2012.
Yu had a 7-8 head-to-head record against her opponent going into the game. Ishikawa is ranked 10th in the world, while Yu is ranked 47th.
In a tight first game, Yu proved she could hold her own against her opponent, but Ishikawa pulled away, taking it 11-8.
The Singaporean battled back in the second, and took a 6-3 lead. She then stretched it to 11-5, capitalising on a number of errors by Ishikawa.
But the Japanese fought back in the third, and built up a lead only for Yu to level at 8-8. The Singaporean displayed nerves of steel as she took the game 14-12.
This was the turning point, said the Singaporean.
“My opponent and I were very close, and we were testing each other so we were more careful in how we played,” she explained.
“So after winning that set, I was calmer. In the fourth, I felt I had an advantage.”
And once again, the Singaporean kept her composure, pulling away from her opponent in the fourth. She sealed it with a lengthy rally, taking the game 11-6.
With Ishikawa looking frazzled, Yu cruised through the final game 11-2.
“I don’t have a target for myself, I take it game by game, because they are at a higher level. But I will give it a fight,” said Yu.
“I feel especially happy to be playing in this competition. It’s the happiest I’ve been playing.”
And regardless of how she finishes from here on out, nothing can take that away from Yu.
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