The third round of singles table tennis at the Olympics is where the seeded players enter the fray. Typically, their first contests of the Games are glorified warmup matches, walkovers on their quest to a medal.
North Korea’s Kim Song-I wasn’t aware.
Kim rallied from two games down to upset fourth-seeded Ishikawa Kasumi of Japan in a marathon seven-game match that lasted more than an hour.
Kim took advantage of Ishikawa’s wastefulness as the favorite committed a litany of unforced errors to turn what looked like a romp into a tight contest. When Ishikawa began to suffer from leg cramps deep in the match – which lasted 64 minutes total – Kim was there to take advantage, winning the final game 11-8 and scoring the biggest upset of the tournament to date.
The North Korean will now face Chen Szu-Yu of Chinese Taipei in the round of sixteen. Chen brushed aside Melek Hu of Turkey four games to love.
But outside of Kim’s upset, the competition Sunday evening resembled a fight between a lawnmower and a blade of grass. Top-seeded Ding Ning (CHN) won in eleven minutes; five-seed Han Ying (GER) and nine-seed Yu Mengyu (SIN) both won in straight games. South Korea’s Jeon Ji-Hee, the eight seed, was the anomaly of the evening; she needed five games to negotiate past Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm.
In the other round three matches, Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong defeated Hungary’s Georgina Pota 4 games to 2, and France’s Li Xue (FRA) survived Li Jie (NED) in seven games.
Table tennis action continues Sunday night with men’s third round action, streaming live on NBCOlympics.com.
A seven-game, 50-minute marathon between Kou Lei (UKR) and Omar Assar (EGY) was the most captivating match of the afternoon as the men’s singles second round finished at the Riocentro.
Having staked himself to a 2-1 lead, the Ukrainian Kou must have thought he was in the driver’s seat of the match. But he conspired to throw away leads in games 4 and 5 and was behind in a must-win game 6. Kou rallied to win game 6 12-10, setting up a do-or-die game 7. Assar opened the game on a 5-0 run, but Kou battled back to even things at 8-8. He won the next two points, and when Assar missed wide following a long rally, Kou had finally held on to advance to round 3.
That was but one entertaining fixture on an afternoon where five matches lasted six games or more.
Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri defeated Slovakia’s Yang Wang in a wildly entertaining affair which was far closer than the score line indicated.
Both players were able to win one of the opening games at 11-7, but not without a battle. A number of rallies lasted a minute or longer, and on more than one occasion a ricochet off the net led to an undeserved break of serve.
In the end, the ball bounced more favorably for Quadri, who swept the final three games to secure his spot in the third round.
Team GB’s Paul Drinkhall survived a late scare from Singapore’s Gao Ning to join his compatriot Liam Pitchford in the third round. Drinkhall was up 3 games to 1 and appeared to be coasting until Gao made two late pushes in games 5 and 6 to even the score. After a back-and-forth seventh game, Drinkhall won the last five points to punch his ticket for round 3.
Another grueling match went the distance as Adrian Crisan of Romania outlasted Emmanuel Lebesson of France in the final match of the afternoon.
In other results, there were dominant victories for Ovidiu Ionescu (ROU), Alexander Shibaev (RUS), and Kristian Karlsson (SWE), while Bojan Tokic snuck by Wang Zengyi in six games.
Round three action commences tonight starting with the women’s singles bracket at 5:00 PM ET. As always, you can watch every match streaming live on NBCOlympics.com.
Viktoria Pavlovich was a come-from-behind winner as the second round of women’s singles concluded at the Riocentro Sunday afternoon.
The Belarusian found herself in a 0-2 hole against Polina Mikhailova of Russia after just a dozen minutes. But she found an extra gear in the third game and was able to squeeze out wins of 11-9 and 13-11 to equalize. She then finished the comeback in commanding fashion with wins of 11-7 and 11-8 to advance to the third round.
The oldest woman in the women’s draw, Xia Lian Ni of Luxembourg, went the distance to beat Yanfei Shen of Spain. The tilt was tight throughout. The pair played three consecutive games at 12-10, with Ni picking up a 2-1 advantage. But Shen won the next two matches and looked set to advance before Ni dug deep and won game 6 emphatically, 11-4. In the final game, Ni jumped out to an early lead and never let Shen back into the fight. When the Spaniard pushed long, Ni was the victor at 11-7.
Jiao Li (NED) beat Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) 4-2 in the most straightforward contest of the afternoon. Li led at 2-0 and 3-1 and looked in charge for the entirety of the match.
North Korea’s Ri Myong Sun dispatched Hungary’s Petra Lovas in five games in the quickest match of the session.
Round two of the men’s singles tournament immediately follows the women this afternoon, with all matches streaming live on NBCOlympics.com.
It’s not as notorious as golf, but table tennis is a sport that values silence. Players are accustomed to a quiet crowd that lets them concentrate completely on the task at hand. When the partisan support got too loud Saturday cheering for Brazilian Gui Lin, she had to raise her hand to ask them to simmer down.
Table tennis officials found a solution to the noise problem during Hugo Calderano’s match in front of his home fans Sunday morning.
They held all other matches.
Instead of rolling out the third block of matches as tables opened up, officials let Calderano finish his five-game victory over Sweden’s Par Gerell as the only court in action. Calderano rode the raucous home support to a 3-0 lead and finished off the Swede in a tight fifth game. The Rio native now advances to the third round, where he’ll take on the 11-seed Tang Peng of Hong Kong.
There were a pair of engrossing encounters in the men’s field. Koki Wang was able to stave off Nigeria’s Segun Toriola in six games. After dropping the first game, Wang roared back to take a 2-1 lead. The duo split the next two games before the man from Japan ran away with the conclusive sixth,11-1.
The most compelling matchup was found on table three, where Spain’s He Zhiwen faced a man less than half his age in the form of Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An. After the latter smashed his way to a 2-0 lead, He fought back to win game 3. The games that followed were some of the longest of the morning session, with Chen doing his best to wear down the elder statesman, and He using his guile and experience to steal points wherever he could.
In the end, youth won out as Chen took two of the final three games to score a 4-2 victory.
Team GB’s Liam Pitchford survived and advanced in five games against Uzbekistan’s Zohkid Kenjaer. Pitchford, one of two remaining members of the British table tennis contingent, will meet ninth-seeded Jung Young-Sik of South Korea in the third round.
Panagiotis Gionis of Greece needed just 19 minutes to sweep aside Thailand’s Padasak Tanviriyavechakul. There were also shutout wins for Jonathan Groth (DEN), Eugene Wang (CAN), and Li Ping (QAT).
Afternoon table tennis gets under way at 12:30 PM ET, with all matches streaming live at NBCOlympics.com.
Day two of Olympic table tennis kicked off Sunday morning with a quartet of matches from the second round of women’s singles. It was the most competitive slate of matches to date at the Riocentro, with a pair of contests going the distance.
The most enthralling match of the morning was found on table four. Down 3 games to 2 and facing five match points, Thailand’s Nanthana Komwong battled back to win seven straight and force a winner-take-all game 7, where she outlasted a visibly dejected Fu Yu of Portugal.
Li Fen (SWE) was also a winner in a marathon bout over Balazova (SVK). Li was down 2-1 and 3-2 in the match, but fought her way through a 12-10 slugfest in the sixth before coasting to victory in game 7.
Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu was the beneficiary of a comprehensive collapse as she stormed back down 0-2 to win in six games against Belarus’s Privalova Alexandra. After four close games to open the match, the Belarusian sleepwalked through the final two games of the tilt, losing both games 11-5.
While the fourth match of the morning went to France’s Li Xue in a 4-0 sweep over Puerto Rico’s Diaz Adriana, it was far closer than the score indicated. After a blowout game 1, the remainder of the match was entertaining and competitive, with multiple rallies of more than a minute.
Table tennis action continues all day Sunday with men’s singles action streaming live on NBCOlympics.com.