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Chinese paddlers cautious of risks in early matches

(Xinhua)

11:06, July 27, 2012

Head coach of China's women's table tennis team Shi Zhihao said Thursday that Chinese players should be ready for strong opponents in the first two matches in London.

"Our opponents in the first two matches may have already played a couple of games. But we haven't played before meeting them. The major question is whether our players can get well-tuned to the competition quickly," Shi said after his team finished a training session at ExCeL.

The Olympic table tennis competitions will start on July 28. Singles events in London Games follow a knockout format. Players ranked 1-16 will qualify directly to the third round.

Shi said players, who are most likely to challenge China's dominance in the women's singles events, are South Korea's Kim Kyungah, Japan's Ai Fukuhara and Kasumi Ishikawa, as well as Singpore's Feng Tianwei and Wang Yuegu.

Kim, No 3 seed, owing to her experience, her ultra reliable defensive style of play and her mental toughness, is a favorite to gain a place on the medal podium.

The youngest in Japan's women table tennis team, 19-year-old Ishikawa is the highest among Japanese women players on the current world rankings. She stands No 5, a place higher than star player Fukuhara.

Singapore's Feng and Wang, both born and trained in China before switching allegiance to Singapore, are under the guidance of Zhou Shusen, former head coach of Beijing's women's team. The team toppled China 3-1 at the World Team Table Tennis Championships final in 2010.

In the women's team events, battles may not be as fierce in the early rounds for China. Major opponent, Beijing Olympic silver medalist Singapore successfully avoided China after Wednesday's draws at ExCeL. It will not encounter China until finals.

Chinese women's team will open its campaign against Spain and its likely semifinal opponent is South Korea.

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