by Wade Townsend & Amy Ding
The group stage of the Men’s and Women’s Team events came to a conclusion yesterday, Tuesday 29th August, at the China National Games.
The competition was fierce with the top two teams from each group securing a place in the quarterfinal stage.
The Women’s Teams event was first to finish on the opening day of action in Tianjin.
In Group A, Team Hebei won their three matches to top the group. The team was led by rising star Sun Yingsha who went undefeated in her five appearances on the court. Team Sichuan, led by Zhu Yuling, secured the no.2 position. With only one win and two loses, Chen Meng’s Team Shandong, the defending champions, finished bottom of their group and and didn’t progress to the main draw.
In Group B, Team Heilongjiang and Team Shanxi both qualified for the next stage. Meanwhile in Group C, Grand Slam champion Ding Ning couldn’t quite steer Team Beijing to top the group, making do with second place as Team Jiefangjun finished first.
In the knockout stage Team Hebei will face Heilongjiang, Hubei encounters Jiefangjun, Jiangsu will face Beijng, while Sichuan is up against Shanxi.
The Men’s Team event provided some titanic clashes between the biggest names in table tennis.
It was Group D that got the attention of the fans, aptly being named “the group of death”. The fixture included Team Jiefangjun, Beijing, the host city Tianjin and Yunnan.
In the second round, six times champion Jiefangjun headed by Fan Zhendong, Zhou Yu and Xu Chenhao encountered the powerful Team Beijing of Ma Long, Yan An and Wang Chuqin. The spectators were in for a treat as Ma Long and Fan Zhendong squared off in their second head-to-head encounter since the final of the 2017 World Championships. This time Fan was in cruise control and made a convincing straight games victory over the reigning World Champion. The win saw Jiefangjun topping the group and advancing to the next round. With two wins and one loss, Team Beijing finished up in second place.
Shanghai and Henan claimed the top two positions in Group A, Group B finished with Guangdong taking first place with Shandong following in second, while Group C saw Jiangsu and Sichuan qualified.
When the quarterfinals get underway, Shanghai plays Jiangsu, Shandong takes on Jiefangju, Sichuan is up against Henan, while Beijing faces off against Guangdong.
The knockout matches kickoff at 14:00 local time on Wednesday 30th August.