Tue, 06 Jun 2023

Historic table tennis worlds kicks off in Durban

21 May 2023, 12:44 GMT+10

DURBAN, South Africa, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Chinese paddlers notched up comfortable victories on the opening day of the 2023 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) Finals here on Saturday.

World No. 5 Liang Jingkun, the first Chinese player coming out of the gate in Durban, withstood the challenge from his New Zealand opponent Alfred Dela Pena in the first two games, where Liang won 11-8, 11-9.

Liang held a firm grip on control afterward, triumphing 11-2, 11-3 to secure a berth in the men's singles last 64.

"Normally it's not easy to play in the first match of major tournaments. I felt a bit nervous at the start and didn't fit quite well into this arena, while gradually getting into the match starting from the third game," said Liang.

Playing in his eighth World Championships, China's team captain Ma Long also sailed into the second round with a straight-game victory over Argentine veteran Gaston Alto.

"It's our first head-to-head, and I'm not quite familiar with the opponent today. He has showcased some characters in his serve and forehand," commented Ma, current Olympic singles gold medalist.

Like their men's counterparts, two Chinese female paddlers also asserted their authority on their way to the second round.

Reigning Olympic champion Chen Meng dispatched Egyptian Yousra Helmy 4-0 in less than 20 minutes, while Chen Xingtong conquered Sarah De Nutte of Luxembourg in straight games.

"I made full preparation for the difficulties, and the process of my first match here was within expectations," explained Chen Meng, who stressed that her target was to play every upcoming match well without looking too far away.

Playing in her first match at the Durban table tennis worlds, Chen Xingtong admitted that she experienced a bit of up-and-down in mindset.

"I'm still searching for better positioning towards the venue," she said.

It only took Chinese teenagers Lin Shidong and Kuai Man 15 minutes to emerge victorious 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 in their mixed doubles first-round match against host pair Chetan Nathoo/Danisha Patel.

The Durban worlds marked the first time in 84 years that the marquee event was held on African soil.

"Having the World Championships hosted here in Durban is not only a celebration of the sport but also a demonstration of our dedication to spreading the influence of table tennis across different continents and cultures," said ITTF president Petra Sorling when delivering a speech on Saturday evening's opening ceremony.

In the tournament's opener played between two African players on table one, world No. 119 Ibrahima Diaw of Senegal whitewashed South African Dean Levy, who is 450 places below him in the world rankings.

The first day of the tournament has sprung some surprises, with women's singles world No. 12 Sofia Polcanova of Austria falling to Dora Madarasz of Hungary in a seven-game thriller, and becoming the first Top 10 seed being dumped out of the competition.

German Dimitrij Ovtcharov, bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympic Games, registered a nail-biting victory over Frenchman Can Akkuzu in full games.

Prominent names like Swedish prodigy Truls Moregard, world's highest-ranked African player Quadri Aruna of Nigeria, Frenchwoman Yuan Jianan and South Korea's Jeon Ji-hee also made it to the second round.

Remaining first-round matches of the Durban worlds continue on Sunday, with Chinese star paddlers Wang Chuqin, Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Yidi ready to battle for spots in the last 64.

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