Olympic medallists Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Ai Fukuhara have made their surprise exits from the International Table Tennis Federation World Championships after suffering defeats at the hands of lower ranked opponents in Suzhou, China.
In the men’s singles German sixth seed Ovtcharov, the London 2012 singles bronze medallist, crashed out of the sport’s showpiece tournament after his shock 11-6, 11-9, 4-11, 8-11, 11-6, 3-11, 11-6 loss to 36th seed Lee Sang Su of South Korea.
“Of course I am extremely disappointed, I prepared every second for this event and to be knocked out in the second round is disappointing for me,” Ovtcharov, one of the favourites for the title, said.
“He surprised me today to be so fast and aggressive from the very beginning.
“I wasn't expecting it, and I was most surprised by his level.
“It was tough for me to get the flow and come back after trailing behind 0-2, 2-3 in the match."
Chinese Youth Olympic Games champion Fan Zhendong advanced thanks to his defeat of doubles world number one Chiang Hung-Chieh of Chinese Taipei, while other home athletes, Ma Long and defending champion and Olympic gold medallist Zhang Jike, also went through after victories.
Meanwhile in the women’s singles, eighth seeded Fukuhara, who was part of the Japanese silver medal winning team at London 2012, bid farewell to her World Championship campaign after suffering an 11-3, 7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 3-11, 10-12 defeat by Ukraine’s Tetyana Bilenko, who is 55 world ranking positions behind Fukuhara.
"I am sad about my overall performance, I should have been more aggressive,” Fukuhara admitted.
“I lost points and became a little bit passive with my tactics.
“I can't believe my singles event is over so quickly.”
Fukuhara’s compatriot and fellow Olympic team member Sayaka Hirano suffered a similar fate and exited the tournament after she was beaten 4-3 by unseeded Hana Matelova of the Czech Republic.
However, current world and Olympic champion Li Xiaoxia of China advanced after her 4-0 win over Canadian Pan American Games champion Zhang Mo.
Elsewhere, North Korea’s Kim Hyok-bong and Kim Jong are on course to successfully defend the mixed doubles title they claimed in Paris in 2013 after they secured a thrilling 5-11, 11-8, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7 quarter-final victory over Wu Yang and Yan An of China.
The number one pair will now take on Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura in tomorrow’s semi-final event.
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