by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager (Interviews by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa Press Officer)
Facing Egypt, Koki Niwa and Yuya Oshima gave Japan the ideal start; they accounted for Ahmed Ali Saleh and Mohamed El-Beiali (11-6, 6-11, 11-2, 11-8), before Tomokazu Harimoto overcame Omar Assar (11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 9-11, 11-4) to repeat the success enjoyed some three years ago at the Safir International in Sweden. Yuya Oshima duly returned to the table, he ended matters by beating Mohamed El-Beiali (11-3, 11-6, 11-8).
“It was a very difficult match for us from the start but we tried out best; it was not a walk-over. However, we are hopeful that we can raise our game in the second match against England. England is a very dangerous team with quality players but I am confident in my team that we can achieve our first target which is to quality from the group. “ Ahmed Ali Saleh
“It is the second time I have played Omar Assar. In the third and fourth game, he changed the rhythm the play and this really affected me. He drew level at two-all. I was able to get back into the match in the fifth game and win. I am so excited to be part of this tournament particularly with the exciting atmosphere and I hope I can use my trade-mark shout to motivate the fans. My aim is to fight in every match to help the team as our goal is to win the gold medal.” Tomokazu Harimoto
Impressive from Japan, on the adjacent table China was just as imposing in opposition to France.
Ma Long and Xu Xin gave China the perfect start by beating Alexandre Cassin and Emmanuel Lebesson (11-4, 11-4, 11-5), Fan Zhendong followed suit, he overcame Quentin Robinot (11-9, 14-12, 11-3), before Ma Long accounted for Emmanuel Lebesson to seal the victory.
Later in the evening at 5.00pm China faces Sweden, Japan confronts England.