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Aussie opponents are on the table

26 July 2012

TABLE TENNIS: The Australia's experienced table tennis team now know their opponents for day one of the the London Olympic Games.

Justin Han will play in the preliminary round at 945am on Saturday morning in London, and William Henzell, Miao Miao and Jian Fang Lay seeded directly into the first round at 4pm, on what is the first full day of competition at the Games.

Han will be first up taking on Mawussi Agbetoglo of Togo. Han will likely go into the match as a favourite, and should he progress he will tackle Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan in the first round.

Han moved to Australia from China as an 18 year-old, and some two years later he is representing his new home at the Olympics.

“The goal for Justin will be to get through that match and make it into the first round,” table tennis coach Jens Lang said.

“Agbetoglo hasn’t played much on the international stage, so we see Justin as the favourite in that. If he gets through Noshad will be tough. He is the number one player in the middle east and Justin would clearly be the underdog. Noshad has high potential, but Justin will have nothing to lose.”

Meanwhile Henzell, who at his third Olympics, will face Hungary’s Adam Pattantyus. The pair regularly train together and have intimate knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. A win will see Henzell move onto the second round against Joao Monteiro of Portugal.

“This is a tough match up for William,” Lang admitted.

“He has played Pattantyus a few times recently and he is rated higher than William. It could be a good time for him to turn the tables.”

Henzell has an exceptional Olympic record. He made history at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games by becoming the first Australian to win matches in both the men’s singles and doubles, and he followed up at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games by reaching the third round of the singles.

In the women’s draw Miao will face Dana Hadacova of the Czech Republic, and should she prevail she has been drawn to tackle Yi-Hua Huang of Tapei.

“Hadacova plays in the European league and she is a professional,” Lang said.

“She is ranked in the top 100 and it’s a hard first up match for Miao. Miao has nothing to lose and she has proven herself at this level. But this would be a great win if she can get it.”

Jian has been drawn to face the winner of the preliminary match between Vanuatu’s Anolyn Lulu and Ugia Silva from Brazil. A win in the first round will see Jian play Li Xue of France.

“Jian will be the favourite regardless of who she plays in the first round. She has lots of experience and is hard to play against. Jian will definitely be the favourite,” Lang said.

“Xue is a chopper with a lot of experience in Europe. She is ranked in the top 100 and would be expected to win.”

Both players are representing Australia at their fourth Olympics, having debuted in 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Jian made the second round at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and Miao was fifth in the doubles in Sydney.

The women’s team has been drawn to face Germany in its first round match with Vivian Tan combining with Miao and Jian, while the men will take on Singapore for a berth in the second round.

“Well I have some inside knowledge of the German team so that may help,” Lang joked in relation to the first up match.

“With the men we played Singapore at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and did well.”

“We will challenge all of our opponents to the max and keep the matches open for as long as possible.”

Australia has been represented at every Olympic Games since the sport began in 1988 but has never won a table tennis medal in Olympic competition. At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Miao and Shirley Zhou combined in the women’s doubles to place fifth out of 34 teams, Australia’s best result to date.

Kevin Diggerson in London

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