by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A first match, not only was it the first match in the Junior Boys’ Singles event for Niu Guankai; it was his first match in the whole tournament.
He did not play in the Boys’ Team event earlier in the week, even though behind Xue Fei he was the second highest ranked member of the squad; furthermore, being seeded, he did not play in the group stage of the Boys’ Singles event.
It was not until the sixth day of the tournament that he played his first match!
“I was nervous at the start of the match because I haven’t played any matches in the tournament before this, so I wasn’t sure how my form is. I was able to recover in the second game but I was still too eager to win when I was leading; so I wasn’t able to execute my tactics as I wanted to. Luckily I was able to adjust in time in the end.” Niu Guankai
A long wait but Niu Guankai is a class act; he adapted very quickly to the demands presented.
“Playing against European players is very different from playing against an Asians. European players tend to serve and hit the ball slower than we do and they tend to play from further away from the table, we are more used to playing rallies close to the table, so that was a little tough for me in the match.” Niu Guankai
Success for Niu Guankai, there were also successes for the leading names as the lower half of the draw in the Boys’ Singles event progressed.
In addition to Niu Guankai; Yuto Kizukuri, the no.2 seed, beat Tunisia’s Aboubaker Bourass (11-9, 11-4, 11-2, 11-6); Xu Haidong, like Niu Guankai also from China and the no.7 seed, overcame Belgium’s Laurens Devos (11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8). Meanwhile, Korea’s An Jaehyun, the no.8 seed, ended the hopes of Chile’s Nicolas Burgos 11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9).
The second and third rounds of the Boys’ Singles event, in addition to the quarter-finals will be played on Saturday 2nd December.