Chinese paddlers demonstrate prowess, Japanese hot favorite suffers early exit at Worlds

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Chen Meng of China serves during the women's singles round of 64 match against Lin Ye of Singapore at 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston, the United States on Nov. 24, 2021. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling)

Top seeds continued to make their presence felt on the second day of action at the World Table Tennis Championships in Houston, whilst upsets and early exits of leading contenders provided additional drama.

China's Fan Zhendong, No.1 in men's singles, showed why he is the world's best player as he eased past Iran's Amir Hodaei 4-0 on Wednesday.

Fan dominated the battle by taking the first two games 11-1, 11-1. He enjoyed another convincing 11-3 win over Hodaei in the third game before Hodaei put up a stiffer fight in the fourth game before bowing out 10-12.

Fan's compatriots Wang Chuqin, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan all beat their opponents to secure a berth in the Round of 32.

Zhou Qihao, the only Chinese male paddler placed in the opposite half, ended his journey at the Houston Worlds after being defeated by Germen evergreen Timo Boll.

In the women's singles, world No. 1 China's Chen Meng joined her teammates Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu, Chen Xingtong and Wang Yidi to cruise into the round of 32, after all of them claimed a 4-0 victory over their respective opponents.

Meanwhile, Chen Meng/Qian Tianyi enjoyed a perfect start in the women's doubles by posting a commanding victory over Slovakian Tatiana Kukulkova/Natalia Grigelova. Dominating from start to finish, the Chinese combination beat their Slovakian counterparts 11-6, 11-3, 11-4.

"This is our first time here at the World Championships. The playing field is very good, so I'm very happy to have fans here supporting us," said Chen.

Wang Chuqin of China competes during the men's singles round of 64 match against Adam Szudi of Hungary at 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston, the United States on Nov. 24, 2021. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling)

The highly-rated German pairing of Patrick Franziska/Timo Boll enjoyed a positive opening to the men's doubles draw. Although encountering a setback in round two, the German duo managed to prevail against Slovakia's Lubomir Pistej/Serbia's Aleksandar Karakasevic 3-1 (11-7, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6). They will take on China's Fan Zhendong/Wang Chuqin on Thursday.

The shocking news on Wednesday came in the men's singles as Japan's hot favorite Tomokazu Harimoto crashed out at the first hurdle with Poland's Jakub Dyjas creating a sensational upset by eliminating the second seeded Japanese in a tense seven-game thriller.

There was more disappointment for Japanese fans as Koki Niwa also suffered an early exit at the hands of Daniel Habesohn from Austria. The No. 15 seed and quarterfinalist at the 2019 Worlds in Budapest fell to Habesohn 4-2 (11-8, 9-11, 5-11, 17-15, 11-9, 11-4) across six intense games.

The third-day of competition will continue with the mixed doubles, featuring joint pairs from China and the United States, Lin Gaoyuan/Lily Zhang and Jha Kanak/Wang Manyu. The second round of the men's and women's doubles, and the men's and women's singles third round will also get underway.

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