Sun Yingsha of China serves during the women's singles round of 16 match against Shin Yu-bin of South Korea at the 2023 ITTF Table Tennis World Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Han Xu)
China marched on ITTF World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) Finals as six Chinese paddlers secured their berths in the men's and women's singles quarterfinals.
DURBAN, South Africa, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Chen Xingtong pulled off a nail-biting victory, saving three match points to edge out Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei in full games. Meanwhile, five other Chinese paddlers secured their berths in the men's and women's singles quarterfinals at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) Finals on Thursday.
Chen was trailing 1-3 after four games and was on the verge of elimination at 9-10 and 8-10 in the fifth and sixth games. Yet, she managed to surmount the odds, clinching an 11-7 victory in the decider.
"Perhaps it was the first time in my career that I staged a comeback like this. It felt magical," Chen remarked.
Chen's next match is against her teammate and defending champion Wang Manyu, who rallied from one game down to eliminate Nina Mittelham of Germany 4-1.
"I was a bit tense at the start, which might have been due to my match yesterday," Wang said, referring to her close 4-3 victory over Ukrainian defender Hanna Haponova.
Wang Manyu (L) of China greets Nina Mittelham of Germany after their women's singles round of 16 match at the 2023 ITTF Table Tennis World Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yahui)
After a 2-2 tie with Miyuu Kihara of Japan in the opening four games, Olympic champion Chen Meng triumphed 11-7 in the fifth game. She then withstood Kihara's rally midway through the sixth to secure an 11-7 win and advance to the next round.
Chen is set to face another Japanese paddler, Mima Ito, in the quarterfinals. The world No. 7 had earlier eliminated Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico in straight games.
Top seed Sun Yingsha and Wang Yidi advanced to the women's last eight with straight-game victories over South Korean Shin Yu-bin and Miu Hirano of Japan, respectively.
Sun will now face German veteran chopper Han Ying, while Wang's next opponent is Japan's Hina Hayata.
Han Ying (L) of Germany hits a return against Ho Tin-Tin of England during the women's singles 1st round match at the 2023 ITTF Table Tennis World Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 21, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yahui)
In Wang Chuqin's first match against Joao Geraldo of Portugal in six years, the second seed scored 11-4 victories in the first three games and saved one game point to win the fourth game 12-10. His next opponent is Danish underdog Anders Lind, who upstaged 13th-ranked Jang Woo-jin of South Korea 4-1.
Reigning champion Fan Zhendong defeated German Qiu Dang 4-0 to arrange a quarterfinal match-up with Egypt's Omar Assar, who became the second African player to reach the World Championships quarterfinals. Nigerian Quadri Aruna was the first to do so two years ago in Houston.
"I'm ecstatic to reach the quarterfinals as an African player. I'm eagerly awaiting the next round, hoping to deliver a strong performance," Assar told Xinhua.
Olympic gold medalist Ma Long demonstrated his prowess with a 4-0 victory over Lim Jong-hoon of South Korea. His teammate Lin Gaoyuan secured a 4-1 victory over Lin Yun-Ju of Chinese Taipei. Ma and Lin will compete for a semifinal spot.
World No. 4 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan ended Italian Mihai Bobocica's fairy-tale run in Durban with a score of 4-0. His quarterfinal adversary will be China's Liang Jingkun, who overcame Darko Jorgic of Slovenia 4-2.
Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha are one win away from retaining their mixed doubles title following a full-game victory against Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong, China.
Their opponents in the final will be the same as two years ago in Houston, as the Japanese pair of Tomokazu Harimoto and Hina Hayata ousted Chinese teenagers Lin Shidong and Kuai Man 3-1.
"We've lost several times to Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha. Tomorrow, we'll go for gold," Harimoto affirmed.
Both pairs of Chen Meng and Wang Yidi, and Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, posted 3-0 victories in the women's doubles quarterfinals.
In an all-Chinese men's doubles quarterfinal, Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin emerged as the 3-1 winners against Lin Gaoyuan and Lin Shidong.
Fan Zhendong/Wang Chuqin (L) of China celebrate during the men's doubles quarterfinal against their teammates Lin Gaoyuan/Lin Shidong at the 2023 ITTF Table Tennis World Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Dongzhen)
Sweden's Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Falck couldn't continue their title defense after losing 3-1 to the South Korean pair of Lee Sang-su and Cho Dae-seong. Lee and Cho will face Fan and Wang in the semifinals. ■