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Fukuhara handed nightmare draw for singles table tennis
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Japanese table tennis star Ai Fukuhara has been handed a nightmare draw here on Monday as she could meet world No. 1 Zhang Yining in as early as the women's singles last 16 in Beijing Olympic Games.

Fukuhara, who is seeded the ninth in the draw following the latest world rankings, was drawn into the second position next to defending champion Zhang, as the top-16 seeds each earned a directive entry into the third round of the Olympic singles event.

According to the ITTF rules, players ranked 1-16 were drawn in the top seed positions, while lower positioned ones have to play more rounds of a knockout system before making the last 32 round.

The all-conquering Chinese men and women got a fairly good draw as they occupied the top three places in the seeding list and thus avoided a possibility of playing against teammates earlier than in the semifinals.

Zhang Yining, the "Grand Slam" winner of Olympic Games, World Championships and World Cup, will firstly play a second round survivor before facing world No. 12 Fukuhara, and could not meet former teammate Li Jia Wei, now representing Singapore, until the semifinals.

Four years ago in Athens, Zhang knocked out Li in the semis before beating Kim Kyang Mi of DPR Korea to claim the Olympic gold medal.

Chinese veteran Wang Nan, who is attending her third Olympics, has been drawn into the top position of the second half and could play Park Mi Young in the last 16 round.

The Olympic gold medalist in 2000 (singles) and 2004 (doubles), who turns 30 years old in October, will try to ensure an all-Chinese semifinal clash as reigning world champion Guo Yue sits at the bottom of the third round draw.

On men's part, Germany's top paddler Timo Boll has been drawn into the same half with China's three-time world champion Wang Liqin and four-time world cup holder Ma Lin, while defending champion Ryu Seung Min of South Korea could meet current world No. 1 Wang Hao and European leader Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus before the semifinals.

The Olympic table tennis singles events will start on Aug. 19 and run through to Aug. 23, with the men's and women's team events slated on Aug. 13-18.

(Xinhua News Agency August 11,2008)

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