by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Nerves but totally focused, Caroline Kumahara made a dream start; she won the first seven points of the opening game; eventually the game was secured but then the second was lost.
“She began to play better in the second game and I lost confidence a bit”, explained Caroline Kumahara. “I put always the ball in the same places; that is why it was easier for her.”
Changes were made; victory was secured in a quite remarkable first morning atmosphere.
“It was a surprise for me, the tiered seats were crowed from the preliminary round”, added Caroline Kumahara. “I am very happy; my family was also here so the support of the crowd was very good for me.”
Support and there was also very astute support from Hugo Hoyama, the national coach sitting courtside.
“Overall I have to be pleased with Caroline, first match at home, big occasion, lots of support, I think she handled matters well”, he said. “She was in control of the match but in the fifth game she became anxious; she was ahead 9-5, she made an easy mistake; then she missed her service.”
Calming words from Hugo Hoyama, a resolute Caroline Kumahara returned; victory was assured.
Success for Mexico
Success for the host nation and there was more success for the host continent as the preliminary round continued. Mexico’s Yadira Silva proved too strong for Syria’s Heba Allejji; she emerged successful in four straight games (11-2, 11-1, 11-2, 11-4).
“It was really difficult to play against Yadira, very difficult to read the spin on the service”, said Heba Allejji. “Also, she put so much spin on the ball; I could not return when she attacked.”
Heba Allejji was playing against and adversary from different level; although from Mexico, the talents of Yadira Silva were honed in Mexico.
“I’m here alone, I have no coach to help me”, sighed Heba Allejji. “I wasn’t able to practise properly before the match; it was difficult but an experience to remember.”
Egypt and Nigeria
Success for Caroline Kumahara in the preliminary round of the Women’s Singles event; there was also success for Africa.
Egypt’s Dina Meshref enjoyed emerged victorious as did Congo Brazzaville’s Han Xing, as well as the Nigerian duo of Offiong Edem and Olufunke Oshonaike.
Dina Meshref beat her Tunisian continental colleague, Safa Saidani (12-10, 11-1, 13-11, 11-6); Offiong Edem beat Fiji’s Sally Yee (11-3, 11-8, 11-3, 11-2), whilst Han Xing defeated Ian Lariba of the Philippines (11-7, 13-11, 11-9, 11-7).
Playing from Memory
Comfortable wins; it was very different for Olufunke Oshonaike. She needed the full seven games to end the hopes of Lebanon’s Mariana Sahakian (8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8).
“I’m so tired, I don’t know where I am; I didn’t get to bed until after 2.00 am this morning, I feel like a bomb has hit me”, said Olufunke Oshonaike who had been the standard bearer for Nigeria the previous evening at the Opening Ceremony.
“Experience got me through today”, added Olufunke Oshonaike. “I could not focus, I could not concentrate but I carried the Nigerian flag, I am through to the first round, I’m so happy!”
A delighted Olufunke Oshonaike, a space of some 12 hours in her life never to forget.