China wins ping-pong mixed doubles
The Shanghai Gymnasium went into ecstasy as local paddlers pocketed the opening gold medal of the 48th World Table Tennis Championships in Shanghai in an all-Chinese mixed doubles final yesterday.
Although having already secured the title for China, the players displayed total commitment as Wang Liqin and Guo Yue see-sawed to beat Liu Guozheng and Bai Yang 4-3.
"It is my first World Championships mixed doubles gold medal, so I'm very happy to win," said Wang. "It is also the first time I have teamed up with Guo. We co-operated very well during the match and we believed in each other throughout."
The mixed doubles is seen as Chinese paddlers' strongest event. Most nations struggle to find male and female players of relatively equal ability, but for China, whose players occupy the top three places in the world rankings for both women and men, there is no such problem.
And this time Chinese domination remained intact. Its seven pairings all made the last 16 before making the semi-finals an all Chinese affair.
"We Chinese players have big advantages in the mixed doubles event," Wang confirmed. "We had no really hard matches before reaching the finals."
But it was not an easy day for rivals Liu and Wang who finished their men's fourth round matches immediately before the mixed final. Liu particularly suffered, being stretched to seven sets and facing down two match-points to overcome Germany's Timo Boll and advance to the quarter-finals.
Liu, famous for his heroics of saving seven match points en route to helping China to the world team title in 2001, showed great mental strength against Boll, levelling the score twice after tying at 11 before taking the deciding set 15-13 to secure a 4-3 victory.
Wang also made it through, edging out Li Ching of Hong Kong 4-3.
Another three Chinese including world No 2 Ma Lin, new stars Hao Shuai and Chen Qi also advanced by beating Lucjan Blaszczyk of Poland 4-0, Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece 4-2 and teammate former world champion Kong Linghui 4-0 respectively.
Denmark's Michael Maze caused a major upset when he overpowered China's Athens Olympics silver medallist Wang Hao 4-0.
The 19th-seeded Maze took less than 40 minutes to subdue the third-ranked Chinese 11-9, 11-6, 12-10, 15-13 and earn a berth in the last eight. "To beat a Chinese in the world championships in Shanghai is like a dream," said Maze.
"I was so anxious that I missed a lot of easy kills. I didn't expect the 4-0 result," lamented Wang.
The remaining two quarter-final spots went to Peter Karlsson of Sweden who beat He Zhiwen of Spain 4-3 and South Korean Oh Sang Eun, 4-3 conqueror of Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.
(China Daily 05/05/2005 page1)