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Olympic table tennis begins with China's dominance
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10:05, August 14, 2008

The Olympic team table tennis competition began on Wednesday at the Peking University gymnasium with dominance of both Chinese men and women cheered on by a boisterous crowd.

The unstoppable Chinese women trio of Zhang Yining, Guo Yue and Wang Nan won the heavy favorites' opening match 3-0 against Croatia, despite Grand Slam veteran Wang's loss in her first game.

The 30-year-old, ranked fifth in July's world rankings, lost to 131st-ranked Andrea Bakula 12-10, before staging a spirited comeback to take the next three sets 11-5, 11-4, 11-9, with a smile on her face.

"My opponent is left-handed, making me feel uncomfortable. But I think the loss in the first game is normal and I made preparations for that," Wang said after the match.

Chinese women's head coach Shi Zhihao said, "The loss is not surprising because it's the first match and we are all getting adjusted to the atmosphere and rhythm. We will go all out for the best outcome."

World number one Zhang had little difficulty in finishing off 26th-ranked Tamara Boros 11-4, 11-2, 11-6 in 15 minutes.

Zhang then teamed up with world champion Guo to brushed aside a Croatian duo Bakula and Sandra Paovic in straight sets, 11-3, 11-3, 11-2.

"I played as well as I did in the training. I felt the atmosphere of the Olympics here this morning and won't relax till the end of the Games," Guo told reporters.

"No matter whether the opponent is strong or weak, we will take every match as the final," said Zhang. "If we relax, the possibility (of our winning) will change so we set high requirements for ourselves. If I can win 11-8, I won't let the opponent score nine points."

She added that Guo was her new partner in the doubles though she was more familiar with Wang, her partner at the Athens Games. "Guo and I will get used to each other in such big competitions."

Later in the day, the Zhang-Wang pair appeared and wasted little time in sealing China's 3-0 success over Dominican Republic.

The Athens doubles gold medalists crushed a hapless pair of Joenny Valdez and Qian Lian 11-4, 11-2, 11-2, after both Zhang and Guo defeated their opponents in straight sets.

On the men's side, the Chinese team beat Greece 3-0 despite its preparations for a difficult 3-2 opening match, as men's coach Liu Guoliang confessed afterwards.

Wang Hao, who has been the world number one for nine straight months, did not fend off a fired-up Kalinikos Kreanga who rallied from two sets down to win the third 11-8. But Wang eventually won 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8.

"I was not yet quite well adapted to the atmosphere and the ball at the beginning, but later I had better control," Wang said. "Kreanga used to be gymnast and moves so easily that I have to beat him with speed and skills."

Having lost the first game of the doubles match, Wang Hao and Wang Liqin were made to sweat for their 9-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 victory over Ntaniel Tsiokas and Gionis Panagiotis in front of exciting spectators who helped pull them through.

"We haven't played many matches against two choppers. We were slow to take the initiative at the beginning, but we made adjustment in time," said Wang Hao.

His coach Liu said that the men's Olympic opening match was always difficult but Wednesday's result was better than expected, which made him "very happy with their performance."


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