Table tennis: Yu Mengyu sweeps Thai to set up semi-final against world No. 3 Mima Ito in Doha

SINGAPORE – Growing from strength to strength, national paddler Yu Mengyu breezed past Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut 3-0 (12-10, 11-6, 11-2) on Friday (March 5) to progress to the WTT Contender Doha semi-finals.

The world No. 50 will face her biggest test of this US$200,000 (S$268,000) tournament in the form of Japanese top seed Mima Ito on Saturday, having dispatched the world No. 3’s compatriot Miu Hirano in the round of 16.

Despite nursing a chronic back ailment and having to go through three qualifying matches to make the main draw, Yu dominated the quarter-final against her world No. 41 opponent.

But the crucial point in the duel was when she staved off a comeback from Suthasini in the first game.

The Singaporean was leading 10-8, squandered two game points before she knuckled down to seal the opener.

She said: “We studied her intensely, and Suthasini can be very hard to shake off, so taking down the first game was definitely vital.”

Yu then impressed in both defence and offence, covering the table well and unleashing powerful forehands that were either winners or pressured the Thai into unforced errors.

The 31-year-old won at a canter to make her first women’s singles semi-finals since the 2018 Asian Games, where she won bronze.

National women’s team coach Hao Anlin said: “Mengyu played very well today and executed our tactics decisively.

“She must maintain her level-headedness against Ito and battle for each point. Ito is speedy and has plenty of variation in her game, so let’s make sure we receive well, stay within striking distance and try to force her to commit errors.”

Ito has been one of the most in-form paddlers since the sport restarting amid the coronavirus pandemic, winning bronze medals at the Women’s World Cup and ITTF Finals last year.

Yu has beaten the 20-year-old just once – at the 2015 Polish Open – in their seven previous encounters.

While Ito showed some rust to squeeze past Dutchwoman Britt Eerland 3-2 in the first round, she beat German Nina Mittelham and South Korean Yang Ha-eun 3-0 subsequently.

Yu said: “I don’t feel any pressure. The big test is in terms of fitness and focus, because including the women’s doubles, this will be my ninth game since Monday, while my opponents are usually much younger and quicker.

“But being able to train and play in Japan’s T-League has helped me stay in good shape physically and mentally, and I’m looking forward to another fruitful match.”

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