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China advances on two fronts at Busan table tennis worlds

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-23 08:59
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China's Wang Chuqin competes against Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto during the men's quarterfinals at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals on Thursday.

BUSAN - China advanced to the final four in both men's and women's team events, while the women's semifinalists have been confirmed at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals on Thursday.

As opposed to its nail-biting 3-2 win in the men's team semifinal two years ago in Chengdu, China notched a straight-set victory this time, but the process was not like the score reflected.

Fan Zhendong withstood Japanese teenager Sora Matsushima's challenge to come out on top in four games, with the first three games decided by a margin of two points.

Down 7-10 in the first game, Matsushima saved three game points before edging to a 13-11 win.

The 33rd-ranked Matsushima displayed his ability in rallies, with his spectacular shots drawing cheers at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center. The 16-year-old once again showed his tenacity, coming back from 6-10 down to force a 10-all tie, but the top-ranked Chinese paddler kept his cool to prevail 12-10 as the clash returned to level terms.

Matsushima gained the upper hand with his attacking firepower, leading 9-6 at one stage in the third game, but Fan demonstrated his status to turn the tide at 12-10.

The fourth game saw Fan regain his superior position, as the world No. 1 rounded out his win at 11-6.

"Matsushima played great today, and I could feel much pressure from him," admitted Fan.

Like their duel in the last edition's event in Chengdu, it took Wang Chuqin and Tomokazu Harimoto four games to decide the result, while it was Wang who celebrated his comeback win, 8-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-6.

"He has been in a good form recently, and had some quality shots against other players, so I made good preparations for any difficulties," said Wang.

Ma Long prevailed 11-9, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 over world No. 74 Hiroto Shinozuka to secure China's semifinal berth.

China is awaiting the winner between South Korea and Denmark on Friday to contend for a final spot.

"The coming matches may be tougher, so we need to go all out for the difficulties ahead," commented Ma.

France also secured its passage to the semifinals in Busan courtesy of a 3-1 win against Portugal. World No. 6 Felix Lebrun became the star of the show, helping France restore parity with a straight-game win against Tiago Apolonia and close out the win by accounting for Marcos Freitas 3-1.

France's semifinal opponent will be decided between Germany and Chinese Taipei.

In the women's event, South Korea changed its order of play, with eighth-ranked Shin Yu-bin put in No. 3 position for the first time in the Busan tournament.

China's Sun Yingsha showed no mercy to Lee Zi-on in the opener, bagging eight points in a row at the start en route an 11-1 win in the first game. Sun was too strong for the home player to check, as the top-ranked paddler fully unleashed her attacking firepower and prevailed 11-5, 11-1 to move the reigning champions in front.

Facing South Korea's No. 1 player Jeon Ji-hee, who had not dropped any of her six previous sets prior to Thursday's action, Chen Meng kept imposing her pressure in the first game for an 11-5 win.

Jeon cut the deficit within 6-7 in the second game, but Chen pulled away to emerge victorious 11-7. The Olympic champion got the ball rolling afterward, rallying from 5-8 down to win 11-9 in the third game to enlarge China's advantage.

South Korea's hope of a comeback all hinged on Shin, but world No. 2 Wang Yidi refused to offer any of that to her opponent, completing the job by winning 11-5, 11-3 in the first two games and saving one game point for a 12-10 victory in the third.

Also on Thursday, France and Germany were engaged in a full-set duel. Although Nina Mittelham scored two points for Germany, all three French players made their contributions to helping their side come through.

Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong, China went toe-to-toe into the decisive matchup, before Hong Kong, China emerged as the winners through a more balanced performance.

With its 10th-ranked player Cheng I-ching prevailing twice, Chinese Taipei came back from behind twice to force a deciding set, while team effort paid dividends for Hong Kong, China, whose three players Doo Hoi Kem, Lee Ho Ching and Zhu Chengzhu accumulated one point apiece for the win.

Japan, the runners-up in the past four editions, dispatched Romania in straight sets.

China will meet France in Friday's semifinal, while Japan takes on Hong Kong, China.

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