Day 1 at the 2011 World Table Tennis Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands proved to be quite successful for the USA. Here are the highlights:
I start out with Men's singles since this is where the highlight of the tournament has been so far for Team USA. Every single male member of the USA team opened with a 4-0 victory in their opening round of the qualification RR for this event. But only Fan Yiyong had to play the second round of the qualification RR on day 1. Due to his lack of an ITTF world ranking, Fan Yiyong was the lowest seeded player in his RR group. The other male USA team members are all 2nd seeded in their RR group and thus will play their final match in the qualification RR later today, May 9th. All will have to win their next match against the top seeded players of their group to advance to the KO stages of qualification however, since that person also won his only match yesterday. But back to Fan Yiyong. Due to his lack of an ITTF world ranking, he had to face the top player of his group on Day 1. There are a couple of things that added a bit of juice to this matchup. First, he was facing the top rated player from the host country the Netherlands --- world #285 Barry Wigers. Second, this match was on Table 1 and was streamed live on itTV on the ITTF website. Probably, not a coincidence since I noticed many of the host country players were being featured on itTV during day1.
The match itself lived up to its featured status. The local player started out strong by taking the opening two games although both were extremely close, as I recall (more on why I can't verify this fact later). But Fan Yiyong fought back hard and eventually had three match points in game 6 with The Netherlands player serving 8-10 and 10-11. But with the locals lustily cheering him on and his tricky services, he was able to save each match point and went on to win the last three points of the game to win it 13-11 and tie the match at 3-3.
It looked like Fan Yiyong had missed his only opportunity to continue on in the tournament (he is not entered in any of the doubles events and it is likely that Barry Wigers as the top seed in his group would also defeat the player that Fan Yiyong had defeated 4-0 in his opening match and thus be the person to advance) since the tables were turned in game 7 where this time Fan Yiyong was serving 8-10 and thus staring in the face of two match points himself. But he disappointed the crowd by taking both and reaching deuce. But they were delighted when their local hero won the next point and once again it was match point against Fan Yiyong, 10-11. But he saved a third match point as his oppenent had in game 6 and the score was now 11-11. But the script now changes from game 6, as once again the local player wins his own service and now leads 12-11. But not to be denied, Fan Yiyong saves his fourth match point and ties it up once more at 12-12. Surely this next time he would finally get the advantage, right? But no, once again he has difficulty with the service and the local fans rejoice in a 13-12 lead anticipating that the next point will surely by the last one of this match. But to their utter disappointment it is not, as Fan Yiyong saves an incredible fifth match point this game and it is 13-13. But then it happens, Fan Yiyong finally is able to have a quality service return and wins the point for his first lead of the entire seventh game and his fourth match point. Could he win his service for the sixth consecutive time under this extreme pressure? The answer is clear as the local player kicks the table in disgust after the point is over. Fan Yiyong saves five match points and wins 15-13 in the 7th in a match streamed live all over the world on itTV and in front of a hostile crowd. His tournament life will continue for at least another day as he advances to the 1st of two knock out (KO) stages on Monday, May 9th at 4:30PM (that will be 7:30 Monday morning here).
But then when I examine the results today (May 9th) I notice there is no game scores for this match and a DSQ besides Barry Wigers name. Even more confusing, I notice that the Fan Yiyong results indicate 1 win and 1 loss and three points. In fact, cumulatively for the group, the results indicate 1 win and 3 losses. Barry Wigers results indicate 1 loss and no points --- which is consistent with a disqualification which would be a default and thus no points. I just don't understand why Fan Yiyong would be credited with a loss because of this. Perhaps Barry Wigers failed a racket test after the match, but that does not explain Fan Yiyong's results. But hopefully, despite all this Fan Yiyong will still advance.
Like the men, all the USA women won their opening match in the qualification RR 4-0. Ariel, Lily, and Erica play their final match of this RR later today. But due to their relatively low ITTF world ranking's, Prachi and Judy Hugh had to play their 2nd and final match of the RR later that same day against the top seeded player in the group as had Fan Yiyong. Only their results were not nearly as spectacular, although relatively good --- particularly in the case of Prachi. Prachi had to play against the 2nd highest rated player having to go through qualification --- Barbara Balazova of Slovakia. She lost the first game in a close one 11-9, but took the second 11-6 to even up the match at 1-1. But the more experienced Slovakian took over after that defeating Prachi 4-1. Prachi must now hope that the player that she had defeated 4-0 in the opening round can recover to defeat the Slovakian either 4-0 or 4-1 later today in order for her to advance --- not a likely event. Still avoiding a 4-0 whitewash at the hands of the much higher seeded Slovakian was quite an accomplishment in itself. The results for Judy were much the same. She also lost 4-1 to the top seeded player in her group. She also has to hope that the opponent she defeated 4-0 in the first round can come back to defeat the top rated player of the group either 4-0 or 4-1 later today in order to advance. But since this is Group 19 and not Group 2, the odds might be just a little better.
Both USA men's doubles pairs --- Mark Hazinski/Timothy Wang and Adam Hugh/Michael Landers --- advanced from the 1st qualification KO stage to the 2nd qualification KO stage --- the former via a walk-over and the latter 3-0. Two more KO stages await them later today. They will have to win both to join the main draw of 64 doubles pairs.
The USA women's doubles pair of Prachi Jha/Erica Wu were defeated in their opening qualification KO stage match 3-1 (at deuce in the last game). The other USA women's doubles pair of Ariel Hsing/Lily Zhang are seeded directly into the main draw of 64 doubles pairs and don't have to play until Tuesday, May 10th.
The USA mixed doubles pair of Michael Landers/Erica Wu won both matches in the qualification KO rounds and thus made it into the main draw of 128 pairs and joining the pairing of Mark Hazinski/Ariel Hsing which were directly seeded there. The other mixed doubles pair of Timothy Wang/Lily Zhang lost their qualification KO round 2 match via a walk over. Perhaps they couldn't find the table? I hope nothing worse than that... :-)
But overall, Day 1 at the world championships was an excellent day for USA table tennis. But things will ratchet up considerably on Day 2 as in many occasions this will result in Team USA members having to defeat higher seeded players in order to advance...