Dreaded draw ... Hong Kong table tennis medal hopes hinge on likely China challenges
The men receive a more favourable assignment but coach Chan Kong-wah says they need to work hard to reach last four
Chan Kong-wah’s face dropped after Wednesday’s draw for the women’s singles of the Rio Olympics table tennis competition, and though there was better news for the men, the Hong Kong coach struggled to smile.
Doo Hoi-kem and Lee Ho-ching were handed difficult assignments in the women’s singles where they start from the third round but are likely to run into China’s top players at the next stage.
To make matters worse for coach Chan, the women were drawn against Taiwan in the team competition, having lost to their rivals at the world championships in Malaysia in March.
The two Hong Kong men’s singles players, though, were given seemingly easier draws and Chan is expecting at least quarter-final places for Wong Chun-ting and Tang Peng.
“For the women’s singles it’s a bad draw but on the men’s side, it’s a bit better,” said Chan. “If they win their first matches, the two women are likely to play against the Chinese girls and that will be very difficult.
“For the men, I’m hoping for a last-eight place and hopefully they can go even farther than that.”
There are three rounds of matches (one qualifying and two competition rounds) in the men’s and women’s singles before the top seeds enter the fray in the third round.
The seedings suggest Doo will first take on Hungary’s Georgina Pota, with victory taking her to a likely fourth-round clash against China’s top seed Ding Ning. Lee is on course for a fourth-round clash against China’s Li Xiaoxia.
The 19-year-old Doo met London singles silver medallist Ding in June’s Korea Open in Incheon, losing in four games in the round of 32.
Lee is hoping to better her quarter-final performance at the London Games but the 23-year-old may find it tough against the powerful Li.
In the men’s singles, Wong could face Austria’s Stefan Fegerl in the fourth round while Tang looks to have a harder task against Japan’s Jun Mizutani. This is assuming they overcome their third-round opponents.
The Hong Kong men’s team take on Australia in the first round in a match they should win. If they progress, they are likely to face old rivals Japan, who Hong Kong beat in the quarter-finals of the London Olympics.
“We beat them in London but they beat us in Beijing in 2008,” said coach Chan. “They are not an easy team so this time I don’t what will happen. Hopefully we can win again.”
Also in the Hong Kong squad are men’s player Ho Kwan-kit and female star Tie Yana, both of whom will join their colleagues for the team competition.