Tokyo – Japan, Apr 28, 2014: Greece’s Kalinikos KREANGA, Gionis PANAGIOTIS and Konstantinos PAPAGEORGIOU beat Japan’s Jun MIZUTANI, Seiya KISHIKAWA and Kenta MATSUDAIRA 3-2, a result that raised eyebrows even amongst the Greek players themselves.
Home crowd hopes were dealt a huge dent today as the Japanese men’s national team suffered a shocking defeat by Greece in their Group C opening match at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships.
“Yes, I was very surprised with this win,” said third singles player Konstantions PAPAGEORGIOU. PAPAGEORGIOU beat favourite
Kenta MATSUDAIRA, giving Greece a 2-1 lead. “I want to thank my team mates because every time I win my match, my team wins. Because they’re so great.”
Greece fielded an experienced squad for the match, with an average age of 35 years compared to Japan’s 23.
PAPAGEORGIOU, who counts his victory against MATSUDAIRA among one of the best wins of his career that included defeating Jan Ove WALDNER in 2003, was also quick to place the team’s success above personal glory.
“When you play for the team it’s most important,” he said. “So I think my victory today is more important than my victory against Waldner.”
In contrast, Matsudaira was visibly upset, and took Japan’s defeat upon himself.
“I take responsibility as I lost my match, he said. “I was nervous in the beginning and wasn’t receiving well.”
The Japanese men’s team wasn’t the only top seeded team affected by first day nerves. In the women’s team competition, third seeds the Korea Republic barely staved off a first round scare in their opening match against the Netherlands, winning 3-2.
But for the rest of the top seeds, it was business as usual. The Japanese women’s team gave the home crowd something to cheer for with a 3-0 victory over Belarus, and the Chinese Men’s and Women’s teams ended the day undefeated, defeating Brazil and Poland 3-0 respectively.
“Sometimes we play too relaxed and get too comfortable in the earlier stages of a tournament,” said China’s Xu Xin following his team’s victory against Brazil. “This gives us some trouble when we finally meet stronger opponents in the knockout rounds because we’d take longer to adjust.”
“We’d rather encounter some difficulty in the group stage so we can work hard to overcome it together, that way we’ll be stronger mentally in the later rounds,” he added.
The ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, held in Tokyo, Japan from 28 April to 5 May, is also the largest world championships in ITTF history, with 144 men’s and 95 women’s teams participating. —- Photo: Action Images/ITTF