China's star-studded women's team took down DPR Korea despite Grand Slam veteran Wang Nan lost to a much lower-ranked opponent at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Guangzhou on Monday.
The Chinese trio of Wang, top-ranked Zhang Yining and second-ranked Li Xiaoxia, won the two-hour long battle in the morning 3-1.
Wang, one of the sport's most decorated players with 20 world titles, was made to sweat in her encounter with 91st-ranked Kim Jong, who took the match 11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 13-11.
Analysts say China is likely to field Zhang and third-ranked Guo Yue at the Beijing Olympics starting in August. It remains uncertain whether 12-year veteran Wang or the rising star Li will be the third one to qualify for the Games.
Wang, 29, said on Sunday that she was not feeling the pressure though she had to perform hammer and tongs at the Guangzhou championships to secure the last ticket.
Encouraged by her compatriot's victory, DPR Korea's Kim Mi Yong, 79th-ranked, fought hard to pose an unexpected threat to Zhang, who took the first game 16-14, but lost the second 13-11.
However, fast-attacking Zhang displayed great grit and determination of a true champion and won the next two 11-7, 11-7. Li quickly followed her teammate's lead, beating Hyon Ryon Hui 11-9, 11-7, 11-2.
DPR Korea failed to turn the table when Zhang showed up again to revenge her teammate Wang, demolishing Kim Jong 12-10, 11-7, 13-11.
Also in Group A, Russia defeated Sweden 3-1, while Group B's Singapore crushed Chinese Taipei 3-0 and Hungary beat Romania by the same score.
(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2008)