China-US pairs make winning debut on opening day of Table Tennis Worlds in Houston

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-11-24 21:27
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Wang Manyu (L)/Kanak Jha compete during the mixed doubles round of 64 match between Wang Manyu of China/Kanak Jha of the United States and Mariia Tailakova/Vladimir Sidorenko of Russia at 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston, the United States on Nov 23, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

HOUSTON - Joint mixed doubles pairs from China and the United States, Lin Gaoyuan/Lily Zhang and Jha Kanak/Wang Manyu, claimed straight-set victories on their debuts as the World Table Tennis Championships kicked off here on Tuesday.

The younger generations who carry on the spirit of Ping-Pong Diplomacy initiated between the two nations half a century ago, the two combinations were confirmed to enter the draw by the sport's world governing body ITTF on Sunday and had just trained together once on the eve of the Worlds' opening.

In Tuesday's competition, Lin/Zhang eased past Portugal's Tiago Apolonia/Shao Jieni 11-6, 11-9, 11-7, while Jha/Wang overcame a lackluster mid-match to beat Russian athletes Vladimir Sidorenko/Mariia Tailakova 11-6, 19-17, 11-7.

"It's the first time that we paired with each other in a competitive match," said Lin after partnering with Zhang to win the first match and to reach the mixed doubles round of 32.

The men's singles fifth seed gave a high praise to his American partner: "She's a brilliant player and a firm partner. I can see she's playing better as the match proceeded."

"I'm really nervous before the match, especially because I know my partner Lin is a world-class paddler. But we played quite well together and had a good on-court communication, which boosted my confidence," Zhang said.

Lin Gaoyuan (L)/Lily Zhang compete during the mixed doubles round of 64 match between Lin Gaoyuan of China/Lily Zhang of the United States and Tiago Apolonia/Jieni Shao of Portugal at 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston, the United States on Nov 23, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

The other China-US combination met a bigger challenge in their encounter with Russian pairs, while Wang Manyu, the newly crowned Tokyo Olympics women's team champion, opted to see the bright side of a tough game.

"It's a real test for us to face the strong Russian duo, but we played better than we had expected, far beyond my expectations," she said.

"Jha is a good attacker and kept a positive attitude even in a difficult time. It's good for the partnership and I can feel the trust between the two of us," added Wang.

"The victory is a good start," Jha echoed. "We'll practice more together, get to know each other better and play better next."

In singles play, Chinese paddlers in action including Wang Chuqin and Zhou Qihao in the men's singles, as well as Chen Xingtong in the women's singles, made easy work of moving to the second round, all in 4-0, while leading paddlers like world No 1s Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng received a bye in the early stage.

The shocking news on the opening day of the worlds came in the men's singles first round matchups, as men's singles star player Jang Woojin was ousted by Russia's Kirill Skachkov and his fellow South Korean An Jaehyun lost to Jha, both 4-3.

The second-day competitions will continue with China's Fan and Chen starting their campaign respectively in the men's and women's singles second round, while the men's and women's doubles play will also get underway here on Wednesday.

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