Tokyo Olympics: Yu Mengyu stuns Japanese rival to reach semi-finals

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Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu during her women's singles quarter-final match against Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic.
Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu during her women's singles quarter-final match against Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic. (PHOTO: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images)

Reporting from Tokyo

TOKYO — For years, she toiled quietly behind her more illustrious teammates Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu. But at this Tokyo Olympics, it is Yu Mengyu's turn to shine.

The Singaporean paddler's valiant run in the table tennis women's singles competition at the Tokyo Olympics continued with a sensational quarter-final win against Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa on Wednesday (28 July).

The 31-year-old, whose career has been hampered by persistent and debilitating injuries, defeated the world No.10 4-1 (8-11, 11-5, 14-12, 11-6, 11-2) to seal a final-four tie with either China's world No.1 Chen Meng.

Even if she loses Thursday morning's semi-final, she still has a shot at a bronze medal in the evening.

"I’m super happy. This is my best Olympic result. Into the semifinals, I don’t have any pressure," she told the official Olympic media service after her win. 

"At international competitions, it’s hard to play against the top three in the world, so I really cherish this opportunity.”

Yu and Ishikawa are familiar foes and have met 15 times, with Yu winning seven of those encounters, including their last meeting at the 2016 Polish Open.

Coming back in crucial third set

Despite losing a tight first set, the Singaporean maintained her composure and drew level in the second. In the crucial third set, Yu fought from an early deficit to draw level at 8-8, before eking out a 14-12 set win.

"The turning point was in the third game. After taking that, I was feeling steady emotionally. And the pressure was on her," she said.

Indeed, the remaining two sets were more smooth sailing for Yu, as Ishikawa tried in vain to mount a comeback.

Yu had hinted that this could be her final Olympics, and she seemed intent on making the most of it from the get go.

“I’ve no secrets. I just take my game to my opponents and fight," she said simply.

Following a straight-sets victory in her opening round against Portugal's Shao Jieni on Sunday, she caused a minor upset in her next round on Tuesday morning by beating world No.8 Cheng I-ching of Taiwan, also in straight sets.

Then on Tuesday evening, she continued her superb form by defeating the United States' Liu Juan 4-2 for her second win of the day, thereby setting up the quarter-final tie with Ishikawa.

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