Team Singapore’s world number four Feng Tianwei marched into the quarter-finals of the Women’s Singles at the Rio Olympic Games on Monday (Tuesday local time), keeping her focus in a noisy arena to beat Austria's Liu Jia 4-1.
Tianwei, the bronze medallist four years ago, will meet with Japan’s Ai Fukuhara in the last eight — the same opponent she lost to in the semi-finals of the team event in London.
“Previous meetings don’t count for much when you get to this stage of the Olympics,” Feng told reporters after a contest in which she had taken a commanding three game lead, eventually winning 11-6, 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 11-4.
“I got into my form very quickly but she changed tactics in the fourth game and I needed time to adjust but I was happy with the win,” said Feng.
The Riocentro Pavilion 3 has enjoyed an unusually boisterous atmosphere for table tennis with Brazilians fans, always raucous for their own players, deciding to maintain the noise levels for matches involving other nations too.
Throughout the tournament so far the large crowds have chosen to ‘adopt’ one of the players, usually the one who is the underdog or who has fallen behind early in the game, and cheer them on, celebrating every point won.
After Feng took such a commanding lead in the match therefore, it was inevitable that the local fans decided to back her Austrian opponent, although they showed their appreciation for Feng’s quality performance at the end when they applauded her off the court.
Feng was appreciative of the passion but said that with two other games going on simultaneously, the cheers and chants provided a challenge in terms of focus.
“It seems that the football culture has had an influence on the way the fans approach the games,” said Feng, “Perhaps it would be more fun for the players if there was just one game in the middle of the arena but with two other games going on, it can be distracting and I had to keep my focus,” she said.
Team Singapore’s other challenger in the women’s singles, Yu Mengyu also moved into the quarter-finals with a 4-1 win over South Korean Jeon Ji-Hee.
On Tuesday, Yu will face North Korean Kim Song I who beat Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu 4-2.
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