Table tennis: Feng Tianwei ends Miu Hirano jinx to move into T2 Diamond Malaysia quarter-finals

JOHOR BARU – After losing the first two games and facing two game points in the third against a younger and higher-ranked opponent, Feng Tianwei looked out for the count.

But the 32-year-old Singaporean made her experience count and tweaked her tactics to surprise 19-year-old Miu Hirano 4-2 (8-11, 9-11, 11-10, 5-4, 5-3, 5-4) in the Seamaster T2 Diamond 2019 Malaysia round-of-16 match at the Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Baru on Friday (July 19).

World No. 13 Feng told The Straits Times: “She learned from struggling with my serve the last time we met to return better. As such, I had problems in the first two games on my serve.

“But I adjusted my serve and it worked better in the following games. The turning point was when I was down 10-9 in the third game, but took two straight points to win my first game.

“I am also struggling with a wrist injury, but in a way that gave me a better mentality and temperament as I was not so anxious to win, and took each point and each game as they came.”

The T2 Diamond series runs on a no-deuce, time-based format. If one game in the first-to-four match ends on or after 24 minutes, a “Fast 5” game (first to five points) will be played until one player wins four games.

The “Fast 5” proved to be Feng’s safe haven as she won three of those games on the trot, bouncing back from 3-0 down in the fourth game to put away world No. 9 Hirano with a string of ferocious shots into the body or down the line, reducing the Japanese, who had earlier been a pocket dynamo, into an error-prone figure.

Feng added: “I have the advantage of having played a similar format in this competition in 2017 and feel that the ‘Fast 5’ suits me because I was able to come up with the decisive points when I needed them.”

This is the first time Feng has beaten a current world top-10 player since December 2017, beating Hirano for the first time in five attempts since 2016 and later admitted it was a timely confidence boost going into next year’s Olympic qualifiers.

Feng will meet the winner between China’s world No. 3 Ding Ning and Romania’s world No. 19 Bernadette Szocs in Saturday’s quarter-finals.

Szocs had stunned Feng 3-2 in the final the last time this event was held in 2017.

After Sunday’s final, in which the men’s and women’s singles winners take home US$100,000 (S$135,870), the US$500,000 series moves to Haikou, China (Sept 26-29) before the finale in Singapore (Nov 28-Dec 1).

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