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S'pore upset Brazil at World Team Table Tennis C’ships

Tagged as the underdogs in the Olympic qualifying campaign, the national men’s table tennis team of Izaac Quek, Clarence Chew and Koen Pang got off to a smashing start at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan on Feb 16.

The world No. 22 Singaporeans upset their eighth-ranked group opponents Brazil 3-0 in their opening Group 7 match – though the latter were missing their highest ranked player Hugo Calderano (No. 7).

World No. 24 Canada defeated Malaysia (70) 3-2 in the other group 7 clash on Feb 16.

Pang, 21, said: “It is a good start for all of us, and we won them without dropping a set so that is a good sign as well. We saw that he (Calderano) wasn’t in the name list that Brazil put out so we just prepared for the rest.

“The three of us are playing at a good level and definitely if we want to win the match tomorrow against Slovenia, we will have to play as good, if not even better.”

National men’s head coach Gao Ning said that the team did well despite their early jitters, adding: “Today was the first match of the competition so there was some nervousness by the players, which was expected, but the result was pleasing and it is a good start for us.”

Top-ranked Singaporean Izaac (No. 55) snatched the lead for them when the 17-year-old came from behind to beat 140th-ranked Guilherme Teodoro 11-9, 10-12, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7 in the first singles.

Pang then defeated 84th-ranked Vitor Ishiy 11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4, before veteran player Chew (173) closed out the 3-0 rout, but not before surviving a scare from world No. 295 Carlos Ishida (11-5, 11-4, 9-11, 11-13, 11-6).

They will play world No. 12 Slovenia next on Feb 17.

World No. 79 Pang said: “We have analysed the videos of our opponents and since we are a young team playing against the big guns, we have nothing to lose and just play our own game.

“It’s definitely going to be a tough match but we’ll play our best table tennis and see what happens.”

There are only 16 Olympic berths up for grabs at the Feb 16-25 championships – eight each for the men and women’s teams – and Gao knows the competition will be fierce.

The top three teams in each group will progress to the knockout stage with the eight winners going directly into the last 16. The second and third-placed teams will compete in the next round for the remaining eight spots.

He added: “We can expect the games to get tougher from here on out, so we will be taking each match one at a time and just perform to our best.”

Table tennis fans at the Bexco Convention Centre in Busan were treated to a thrilling opening day, with the top-ranked China women’s team surviving a near upset by 17th-ranked India.

Women’s world No. 1 Sun Yingsha was shocked early in the contest, losing 12-10, 2-11, 13-11, 11-6 to No. 155 Ayhika Mukherjee. While teammate Wang Manyu leveled the score in the second singles against Manika Batra (11-3, 1-8, 13-15, 11-7), China found themselves on the back foot again after world No. 2 Wang Yidi was upset 11-7, 11-9, 13-11 by Sreeja Akula (49).

Sun then redeemed herself in the next game against Batra, winning 11-3, 11-6, 11-13, 11-9 before Manyu sealed the victory with a 11-9, 13-11, 11-6 rout of Mukherjee.

The world No. 10 Singapore women’s team comprising Zhou Jingyi, Ser Lin Qian, Zeng Jian and Wong Xin Ru will play their first group game on Feb 17 against 22nd-ranked Sweden. The other group opponents are Romania (7), Canada (26) and Serbia (45).