China dominates as team table tennis begin

Aug. 13, 2008, 12:11 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Facing immense expectations in their national sport, the Chinese dominated the start of Olympic team table tennis Wednesday with the women beating Croatia 3-0.

And when the home players were down - which wasn't often - a roaring crowd was there to help pull them through.

The best-of-five format includes four singles games with a doubles game in the middle. The top-ranked hosts gave up only one game, in a matchup between Wang Nan and Andrea Bakula, which Wang won 10-12, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9.

"The first game and the finals are more difficult for every athlete at the Olympics. So we're really used to it," said Wang, a gold medalist in women's doubles at Athens and Sydney.

The group matches in the team event were not expected to be a difficult for the Chinese women, who were grouped with Croatia, Austria and the Dominican Republic.

"I played many good matches last year, year and a half, against the Chinese," Bakula said. "I always win one set. Always play one or two more close. But, in the end, you know they are tough in the head and it's quite difficult with them."

When Wang fell behind 4-0 in her first game, the crowd chanted "Wang Nan Jia You!" or "Go Wang Nan!" until she scored the next point. The fans cheered every time China scored and screamed in approval at the end of every game.

The mostly Chinese crowd applauded for exciting rallies on any of the eight tables where games were played simultaneously. At one point, the crowd shouted "Waah!" repeatedly as Japan's Jun Mizutani and Nigeria's Segun Toriola traded long looping shots while standing 10 feet from the table.

The Chinese men's team plays Greece in the afternoon.