|Wang Yuegu's 2 wins carry Singapore to WTTC 2012 Finals|
Image courtesy of ITTF
The opening match was a long one, the expedite rule coming in in the very final stages of the match. A lot of patience and a lot of pushing, proving to be too much as Kim Kyung Ah ground away at former World Number 2 Feng Tianwei. Feng was pivotal in the victory over China 2 years ago. Feng had led the match 2-1 but Ah had come back strong, winning the 4th set with an overwhelming 11-1 margin and then 11-7 in the final set. Korea had put immediate pressure on Singapore, 1-0.
The second match followed suit, another 3-2 scoreline. Wang Yuegu also determined to repeat the success of 2010 came up against Seok Ha Jung. It was a tight match from start to finish with Wang saving the 4th 12-10 and pushing to 5 where she won 11-6 and levelled the score with Korea 1-1. Dang Ye Seo was next up to the plate facing Li Jiawei. Li, who came 4th at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 showed no real sign of being a threat. Dang was able to comfortably take the match 3-0.
Pressure was on for Feng Tianwei as she now faced an unfavourable 2-1 score margin. Korea had the advantage. Feng raced ahead to take the first 2 sets of the match against Seok Ha Jung 11-5 and 11-3. The Korean player didn't appear to have any solid tactics and constantly placed the ball into Feng's backhand zone, where she was able to control all the placement over the table and was much more consistent than her Korean opponent. Two strong serves gave a set back to Seok, 11-9, but the end result was in Singapore's favour setting up a decider between World Number 8 Wang Yuegu and Number 16 Kim Kyung Ah.
Wang Yuegu was ahead in the first set with haste. Her forehand drive was seemingly too powerful for the defensive player. Commentators noted the difficult of a defensive player have such a large gap between two matches and the tough task of finding the right rhythm again. It was clear in the first set as Wang took a huge lead but Ah came back towards the end. It was too late in the first set, Wang Yuegu winning the first set 11-7. Kim Kyung Ah varied up her tactics in the second set of the match and took an early lead. Combining attacking balls with her defensive play appeared to be an effective strategy, she led 5-1 early in the set but it wasn't long before Wang came back and levelled 7-7. Pressing the attack and focusing on placement and a mix of pushing and attacking balls, she pressed Ah back from the table and forced balls which she could drive harder to win points easily. Kim Kyung Ah mixed float chop variations and forced a couple of errors from Wang, enough so to take the 2nd set 12-10.
Ah took an early lead in the 3rd forcing multiple errors from the Singaporean player and taking a 4-0 lead. She held the lead, looking to have found her wings in the middle of the set, highly consistent and varying the spin on her chop. Wang Yuegu looking to have trouble in picking the right ball to drive harder. Ah took the 3rd set 11-7. Good fortune came into play in the 4th set with Wang Yuegu picking up a few lucky points, she genuinely had control over the match however with much more decisive attacking strokes and taking opportunities to counter any attacks made by the Korean defender. 11-6 the scoreline and after 4 hours it all boiled down to a 5th and final set. Fortune flipped back in Ah's favour with two edgeballs to win the first 2 points, a crowd of over 10,000 sat in watch!
A timeout by Singapore and Wang Yuegu reset and started her climb back. An amazing rally of 40+ shots claimed a 3-3 draw and a level playing field. Wang Yuegu patiently waiting to attack and soft rolling Kim Kyung Ah's opening balls, Wang won 4 points in a row and forced a timeout by Korea. Wang lead 5-3 at the changover, a crucial psychological advantage in this hard pitched mental battle. Kim Kyung Ah appeared to have lost her attacking rhythm and Wang took advantage immediately. Her consistency stepped up tenfold as she continued on with a 7-5 lead. This could potentially be noted as the most intense match of the World Championships so far. 9-6 the lead for Wang Yuegu and all the pressure on her to hold the lead for two more points. Errors by Wang Yuegu lead to a string of 3 points in a row for Ah and a lead shrunk to just 9-8 for Wang. The expedite rule came into play and the real pressure was on, with a cap on how many shots allowed for the server to win the point, the expedite rule is one of the most psychologically tough rules in table tennis. Wang Yuegu held her head high to win 11-9 and Singapore's hopes are ALIVE!
The epic and lengthy deciding match
Wang Yuegu v. Kim Kyung Ah