Wang struggles as China wins 3-0 over Australia
BEIJING (AP) The top-ranked Chinese men defeated Australia 3-0 in the team table tennis competition Thursday, but another session of unsteady play by No. 4 Wang Liqin revealed a potential weak spot.
China will advance to the second round with a win over Austria in the afternoon session, and was expected to go on to face South Korea, Hong Kong or Japan.
Wang defeated William Henzell, ranked No. 147 in the world, in four close games, 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9. There was little of the crushing dominance that is the trademark of the Chinese table tennis program. Instead, Wang seemed unable to contain his opponent, sending returns out of bounds or missing shots.
The two-time Olympic medalist had also struggled during his doubles match against Greece on Wednesday.
He attributed the problems in part to the pressure of meeting the expectations of the Chinese public, which will only be satisfied with gold medals at the Beijing Games.
"The Olympics isn't any ordinary competition, there's definitely more pressure," Wang said, though he also tried to turn his rough outing into a positive.
"I didn't play to my full potential, but it was good training for me psychologically," he said. "When I was behind 1-0, and even when I was trailing in the second game, to be able to come back from that, psychologically, that was good for me. I think it'll be helpful for the upcoming games."
Despite announcements before the competition that audience members should keep quiet and turn off their mobile phones to avoid distracting the players, fans in the mostly full stadium rallied behind Wang, particularly when he trailed 7-1 before ultimately winning the second game 12-10.
Shouts of "Go Wang Liqin" reverberated through the 6,200-seat gymnasium, which was built especially for table tennis. When Wang went ahead 11-10 after a rally where the players were taking big swings at the ball, he let out a shout and threw up his fists, and the fans screamed and waved Chinese flags of all sizes.
The Chinese women face their highest-ranked opponent so far, No. 8 Austria, in the afternoon session.