29 Apr 2018

A dramatic start; the start of the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad on the morning of Sunday 29th April, could hardly have been more dramatic.

The drama was provided by the hosts, Sweden, the no.24 seeds in the Women’s event, they came so close to causing a massive upset; they extended Singapore, the no.8 seed, the full five match distance.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager

Matilda Ekholm, the most experienced player in the Swedish team, kept the local supporters on the very edges of their seats.

After Linda Bergström had experienced defeat at the hands of Feng Tianwei in four games (10-12, 11-8, 11-8, 11-1), Matilda Ekholm levelled matters by overcoming Yu Mengyu, a contest in which she gave her supporters heart failure. Continually causing Yu Mengyu problems with a deft forehand reversed service, she led 10-7 in the fifth game, before losing the next three points and eventually converting on her fourth match point (7-11, 12-10, 11-4, 6-11, 12-10).

Matters level, much rested on the shoulders of Lin Ye, the 22 year old making her World Championships debut; the response was one of a veritable veteran; a four games win was the order proceedings against Jennifer Jonsson (11-4, 11-8, 6-11, 11-4), the result setting the scene for Feng Tianwei to complete matters.

It appeared that the win recorded by Lin Ye had turned matters inexorably in favour of Singapore; against Matilda Ekholm, Feng Tianwei won the first two games with comparative ease before losing the next three (3-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7). Just as Yu Mengyu had experienced problems returning the serves of the Swede, so did Feng Tianwei.

“I was two-nil up and in the third I led 5-2; Matilda played more aggressively, I made mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes returning her services.” Feng Tianwei

Confidence grew in the heart of Matilda Ekholm, it drained from the mind of Feng Tianwei who appeared somewhat tired, no doubt the exertions of the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games had taken their toll.

“My service that was my main weapon, I was sure she’d have problems. People have told me that with the new ball my serves would not be as effective but I find it’s no different, just go for it; give it one hundred per cent. Yes, I miss a few but I get more free points than I miss. Personally, I’m pleased today I was able to come back from two-nil down against Feng Tianwei and win; at the start of the day I was nervous but gradually I relaxed.” Matilda Ekholm

Matters level; hope grew in Swedish hearts as Linda Bergström combined stoic defence with controlled forehand top spin attacking play to win the opening game against Yu Mengyu in what was a repeat of the duel in opposition to Feng Tianwei in the opening match of the encounter. Yu Mengyu won a close second before assuming control and securing a Singaporean victory (5-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5).

“Against Matilda, I couldn’t receive her serves and that put me under pressure; playing Linda, I played too fast in the first game but as the second game progressed I found a rhythm.” Yu Mengyu.

Success for Singapore as predicted but it was a relieved Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye who departed the arena.

2018 World Team Championships Matilda Ekholm

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Day 8 - Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships

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