KUALA LUMPUR • Singapore's men may have lost their World Team Table Tennis Championships opener 2-3 against Poland yesterday, but they can at least take heart from Gao Ning's valiant performance.
He sprained his ankle after falling during the rubber set of the first singles tie against Poland's world No. 82 Jakub Dyjas.
The world No. 21 returned to the table gingerly after 10 minutes of treatment, but eventually lost 11-9, 9-11, 11-13, 11-8, 9-11.
However, he bounced back in the fourth singles to beat Wang Zengyi 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9 despite his opponent's attempt to unsettle him by arguing with the referee while Gao was on the ascendancy.
The win was all the more impressive considering Wang had beaten him in straight sets in the German Open's round of 32 last month.
Alas, the 33-year-old Gao's efforts were not enough to help Singapore overcome Poland.
While Yang Zi also beat Wang (5-11, 11-5, 11-7, 15-13), the world No. 163 fell to Dyjas 9-11, 11-8, 5-11, 5-11 in the deciding fifth singles.
Clarence Chew had earlier lost to Daniel Gorak 2-11, 11-9, 8-11, 3-11 in the third singles.
Gao, who headed straight for the team hotel after the match, said he is unsure if he will return to the table today for the men's matches against Japan and Portugal.
He told The Straits Times: "I heard a sound and I knew it was serious. But I didn't want to just give up, so I tried to block the pain out.
"It's painful when I walk, but hopefully I can return by tomorrow. Our opponents are much stronger than today, so each of us has to be at our very best."
Chua Siang Yee