Experience Prevails for Spanish Veteran Over Yijun Feng
The first round in the singles at his Olympic debut and Yijun Feng faced an incredibly experienced opponent. He Zhiwen of Spain, recent champion of the over 50 singles at the World Veteran Championships on his home turf in Alicante, Spain and successful in qualifying for Rio by virtue of defeating highly ranked English player Liam Pitchford in the European Olympic Trials, would be the hurdle between Yijun and round 2 in Rio.
The 19-year old from Atlanta never led in the first game but returned the favor in the 11-7 game two win. Seven of those points were won on his serve. A key tactic which worked well for Yijun was to target the weaker forehand flick receive of He Zhiwen and then use his reverse penhold backhand to send the ball wider into the forehand corner, this was a tactic which worked on repeated occasions. Yijun really hit his rhythm in the fourth game. After falling behind out of the gate, Feng scored seven unanswered points and evened the match at 2-2.
He Zhiwen's short pimple penhold style continually presented awkward variations to both spin and speed and his close-table presence ensured he maintained pressure on his younger opponent, especially in the crucial points of the match.
The turning point came in the fifth game when Feng was up 9-7, but He rallied for the 11-9 win and closed out the match with a 11-4 game six win. He Zhiwen, nearly three times Feng’s age, is making his fourth Olympic appearance.
“His serve is legendary,” said Feng of He. “There isn’t much you can do about that. I tried my best and I thought I played him very well but he’s well experienced. Again, his serves are legendary.”
Feng battled and gave He Zhiwen a run for his money, but the older, more experienced opponent took the match 4-2 (6-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 9-11, 4-11).
Still to come tonight is 20-year Lily Zhang who will be playing Jieni Shao from Portugal at 7:30 p.m. ET and Jennifer Wu who is matched up with Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm at 8:15 p.m. ET.
To find schedules and more information on draws and results, head to the USA Table Tennis Olympic Homepage.