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Table Tennis: Greece shock hosts Japan in World Team Championships

Greece players and officials celebrate after shocking hosts Japan. Photos: Remy Gros / ITTF.

Greece players and officials celebrate after shocking hosts Japan on the opening day of the Zen-Noh World Team Championships in Tokyo. Photos: Remy Gros / ITTF.

April 29, 2014: Home crowd hopes were dealt a huge dent on Monday as the Japan men’s national team suffered a shocking defeat by Greece in their opening Group C match at the Zen-Noh World Team Championships in Tokyo.


Greece’s Kalinikos Kreanga, Gionis Panagiotis and Konstantinos Papageorgiou beat Japan’s Jun Mizutani, Seiya Kishikawa and Kenta Matsudaira 3-2, a result that raised eyebrows even among the Greek players themselves.


“I was very surprised with this win,” said Papageorgiou, Greece’s third singles player who beat favourite Kenta Matsudaira to give the underdogs a 2-1 lead. “I want to thank my team mates because every time I win my match, my team wins.”


Greece fielded an experienced squad for the match, with an average age of 35 years compared to Japan’s 23. Papageorgiou, who counts his victory against Matsudaira among one of the best wins of his career that included defeating Jan Ove Waldner in 2003, was also quick to place the team’s success above personal glory.


“When you play for the team it’s most important, so I think my victory today is more important than my victory against Waldner,” he said.


In contrast, Matsudaira was visibly upset and took Japan’s defeat upon himself. “I take responsibility as I lost my match, he said. “I was nervous in the beginning and wasn’t receiving well.”


The Japan men’s team weren’t the only top-seeded team affected by first-day nerves. In the women’s competition, third seeds Korea Republic staved off a scare in their opening match against the Netherlands to win 3-2.


Seo Hyo-won in action during Korea’s 3-2 win over the Netherlands.

Seo Hyo-won in action during Korea’s 3-2 win over the Netherlands in the women’s competition.

For the rest of the top seeds, it was business as usual. The Japan women’s team gave the home crowd something to cheer for with a 3-0 victory over Belarus and the China men’s and women’s teams ended the day undefeated, defeating Brazil and Poland 3-0 respectively.


However, Chinese men’s star Xu Xin warned: “Sometimes we play too relaxed and get too comfortable in the earlier stages of a tournament. This gives us some trouble when we finally meet stronger opponents in the knockout rounds because we’d take longer to adjust. We’d rather encounter some difficulty in the group stage so we can work hard to overcome it together and that way we’ll be stronger mentally in the later rounds.”


This year’s World Team Championships is the largest in ITTF history, with 144 men’s and 95 women’s teams participating.


Source: ITTF

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