The hard work is yet to come, says HK coach
Hong Kong continued their winning ways in the world team championships with clean-sheet victories in both the men and women's events on the second day of competition at Guangzhou Gymnasium yesterday.
The men's team, comprising Li Ching, Cheung Yuk and Leung Chu-yan, cruised to a 3-0 win over Greece in group D while Lin Ling, Tie Yana and Jiang Huajun defeated Spain by the same score in women's group C.
In another women's match, hosts and clear favourites China dropped a rubber against North Korea when two-time Olympic champion Wang Nan was beaten 3-1 in her opening match against Kim Jong in group A.
But the mainlanders still came back to register a 3-1 win in the match, thanks to victories from world number one Zhang Yining, who collected two points against the North Koreans, and up-and-coming Li Xiaohua. China suffered no hiccups in the afternoon, despite playing without Wang. Li, Guo Yue and Guo Yan whitewashed Croatia 3-0, dropping just one game along the way in a tie that lasted slightly over an hour.
Wang has been nominated by the Chinese authorities to take part in next week's Olympic continental qualifying tournament in Hong Kong, which means she is likely to secure the mainland women's team's third and final berth for the Beijing Games. But her chance could now be jeopardised following her disappointing performance in Guangzhou. Officials had already said they would make a decision on the player for the Hong Kong event only after gauging performances at this world event.
Hong Kong men's coach Chan Kong-wah said the real test was yet to come for his team. 'The match against Denmark tomorrow and the following day's match against the group top seeds Singapore will be crucial,' he said. 'We have to finish top of the group in order to get an easier draw in the knock-out stage.'
The coach singled out the Danes' Michael Maze, who collected two points against Spain yesterday, as the danger man. Denmark won 3-2 over the Spaniards. 'He is a top-class player from Europe and the key player on the Danish side,' said Chan. 'But luckily, his fellow players are not of his standard, which means we are still a better side in a best-of-five tie match.
'The match against Singapore will be much more difficult as they have two good players in the squad - Gao Ning and Yang Zi. They proved their class with a convincing 3-0 win over Belarus.'
In the women's event, world number 10 Tie Yana was given a big scare as she needed five games before seeing off Spaniard Sara Ramirez, who is ranked outside the world's top 100.
Jiang Huajun, Hong Kong's top player, endured a similarly disappointing match as she also took five games to beat unheralded Galia Dvorak in the final tie.
'The players suffered a lapse of concentration and this problem needs to be addressed,' said China women's coach Li Huifen.