Age is no barrier for 52-year-old He Zhiwen with his legacy long secure
At 52, former China and now Spain international loses first-round singles game but he's happy he's still competing at the top level
For 52-year-old He Zhiwen of Spain, the oldest player at the world championships, an early exit in the men's singles meant little as his legacy is secure.
The former China international lost to Jakub Dyjas of Poland in seven gruelling games, despite the raucous support of fans in the country of his birth.
"I did not play well in the first two games and when the match had to go to seven full games, I knew my physical condition was going to be vulnerable," said He, who became the oldest player to clinch an open tour title when he won the doubles championship at last month's Spanish Open.
"I did not set any target for this event. I entered because I fancied returning to look at China."
He was a member of the China national team in the 1980s before leaving for Spain in 1989.
Despite his age, he still plays professional club table tennis in France. He never represented China in the Olympic Games but made his appearance at the Athens, Beijing and London Games, all for Spain.
Asked if he would try for the Rio Games for his fourth Olympics, He just said, "I haven't thought of the Olympics yet".
Hong Kong players, meanwhile, passed their opening-round test in the singles with only youngster Lee Ching-wan losing. Veteran Jiang Huajun beat Tamolwan Khetkhuan of Thailand 4-3 in the women's competition.
“Jiang was struggling to find her rhythm in her first match and was also affected by the atmosphere in playing in the main hall,” said head coach Chan Kong-wah. “But she was able to come back from 3-0 down and won. This should give her sufficient confidence to carry on.”
Hong Kong doubles combinations progressed with all three pairs reaching the third round. Doo Hoi-kem and Lee Ho-ching beat Galia Dvorak and Sara Ramirez of Spain 4-2 in the women's doubles while fellow countrywomen Tie Yana and Jiang Huajun overcame Anamaria Erdelji and Gabriela Feher of Serbia, also 4-2. In the men's doubles, Tang Peng and Wong Chun-ting beat Gao Ning and Yang Zi of Singapore 4-2.
Yang Zi of Singapore 4-2. 11-6, 13-11, 14-12, 13-11.
The long-awaited clash between Zhang Jiki and Xu Xin of China against the combination of fellow countrymen Ma Long and Timo Boll of Germany in another men’s doubles second round kept fans on the edge of their seats. Falling two games down, the all-Chinese combination took the next four games in a row to win 9-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-8, 11-9 in a classic match displaying the highest level of skill on the table.
“This is an important win under the new trial of different player combination,” said Zhang, the London Olympic Games and world singles champions. “We are happy to be on the winning end of this clash although this is not my most important win.”