Table tennis: Ironman Wang leads the way for China at Singapore Smash

Wang Chuqin (left) and mixed doubles partner Sun Yingsha in action at the Singapore Smash 2023. PHOTO: WORLD TABLE TENNIS

SINGAPORE – On a day when the Chinese table tennis stars largely prevailed at the Singapore Smash, Wang Chuqin impressed with three clinical victories.

His Wednesday at OCBC Arena began at 1pm when he teamed up with Fan Zhendong as defending men’s doubles champions to beat Singapore’s Izaac Quek and Koen Pang in the round of 16.

At 5pm, he was back in the Infinity Arena at Table 1, this time combining with Sun Yingsha to beat Taiwanese duo Lin Yun-ju and Chen Szu-yu 3-1 to reach the mixed doubles final for the second year running.

Finally at 9.30pm, the southpaw stepped back on court to deliver his customary crisp shots into the corners against Izaac in the men’s singles round of 16.

Nonchalantly, the 22-year-old told The Straits Times: “Yeah, I did feel tired, and it’s normal to feel the strain of playing three matches today because they were tough matches and the opponents are only going to be stronger as we go deeper into the tournament.”

Despite his young age, Wang’s work ethic is second to none.

Former China national coach Wu Jingping told the story of Wang quipping his shorts had turned into swimming trunks from all the sweat after a tough session during a centralised training session in 2017.

He saw how Wang had put in so much work, and gave him the dispensation to sleep in and skip morning exercises, only to see the teenager relentlessly attending every session and shedding more than 10kg after 40 days.

It led their team doctor to comment: “He’s great, he doesn’t complain about pain during treatment. It seems like he is immune from pain because only playing table tennis can give him joy.”

Wang, currently the men’s singles world No. 3, shared that to this day, he still works up at 6.30am to work on his serves and technique across six hours each day and spends two hours a day on fitness and conditioning.

He added: “If I want to play all three events, then I have to be ready and cannot complain.

“If I’m physically fit, then mentally I will be more prepared to handle the rigours of multiple matches.”

Men’s singles world No. 1 Fan also had to play three matches on Wednesday, but saw his perfect streak come to an end in the other mixed doubles semi-finals when he and Wang Manyu lost 3-0 (11-4, 11-8, 12-10) to Japan’s Tomakazu Harimoto and Hina Hayata.

This result should not be considered an upset as the Chinese were playing in their first tournament as a pair, while the Japanese are ranked fourth and have played together for more than four years.

Harimoto, 19, said: “I’m surprised we managed to beat them by such a scoreline, but we were near perfect today.

“We lost in the quarter-finals last year because we did not manage to execute what we were capable of, but this year we are so much better in terms of stability, and we are looking forward to make a good run for the title.”

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