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OLYMPICS: Taiwanese table tennis player one step closer to history

2012/07/31 15:56:31

London, July 30 (CNA) Taiwan's Chuang Chih-yuan advanced to the quarterfinals of the men's singles in Olympic table tennis Monday, positioning himself one win away from the best performance ever by a male Taiwanese table tennis player at an Olympic Games.

Chuang, seeded fifth in the Olympic tournament, opened the day by defeating Daniel Zwickl of Hungary in straight sets, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9 in a round of 32 match.

He then proceeded to topple unseeded Andrej Gacina of Croatia 11-8, 11-5, 11-4, 7-11, 3-11, 11-5 to reach the quarterfinals, equaling his best ever Olympic result.

China-born Chen Jing won a silver medal representing Taiwan in the women's singles in Atlanta in 1996, but no Taiwanese male has ever made it past the quarterfinals.

Chuang reached the round of eight in the men's singles at the Athens Games in 2004 before falling to Wang Hao of China in six sets.

He then suffered a bitter defeat in the round of 32 in Beijing but now has a legitimate chance to move deeper into the tournament.

The 31-year-old was playing his first matches of the event Monday, having gotten byes into the round of 32 by virtue of being one of the top 16 seeds. His opener was tougher than he had expected, even if he won in straight sets.

"He (Zwickl) played like it was the tournament final. I hoped I could get into the match more quickly," Chuang said.

By the second match, Chuang felt more comfortable with the surroundings, and he had made the necessary mental adjustments. But against Gacina, there was still a two-set lapse.

"He changed his serving strategy, and that caused me to drop the fourth and fifth sets," said Chuang, who decided to get more aggressive in the sixth set and put the match away with the help of some unforced errors by the Croatian.

Up next for Chuang on Tuesday night in London will be the tournament's 15th seed, Adrian Crisan of Romania, who reached the quarterfinals by stunning 4th seed Timo Boll of Germany in five sets.

The Taiwanese player has defeated Crisan in their three previous encounters, but in a tournament where ranking has meant little -- only four of the top 10 seeds are left -- there is no reason for Chuang to feel overconfident or look ahead.

And he isn't likely to, having insisted even before the tournament that he would take it one match at a time. Even in his third Olympics, Chuang remains humble enough to know that press clippings or one's ranking can't beat performance.

In the mixed zone at the table tennis venue where athletes can meet the press, a tournament official had this to say about Taiwan's No. 1: "Chuang Chih-yuan is really cool. He always has a poker face but also controls the ball like a magician."

When Chuang heard the comment, he was as cool and humble as always. "I'm not that good," he said.

But he is now ideally positioned to show how good he really is in what is likely to be his final Olympic Games.

(By Luke Sabatier)
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