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Aussies off to perfect start

28 July 2012

TABLE TENNIS: Australian table tennis players Justin Han, Miao Miao and Jian Fang Lay have all won their opening singles matches at the 2012 London Olympic Games.  

Justin Han progressed through the preliminary round of the men's competition with a six set win over Mawussi Agbetoglo of Togo.

Han progressed  with a six set win over Mawussi Agbetoglo of Togo - 9-11, 11-7, 11-1, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9 - and will play later today against Noshad Alamiyan of Iran.

The 20-year-old Han started slowly, splitting the opening two sets. He then hit his stride, racing to a 10-0 lead in the third set. After closing the set out, Han surprisingly dropped the fourth set before regrouping to finish out the contest.

The Olympic debutant admitted he battled nerves in his opening encounter.

"I was very nervous at the start but the first two sets I got better," Han said.

"This is my first Olympic Games and I wanted to get through the first match."

Han received some timely advice from teammate and triple Olympian William Henzell en route to the venue.

"William has a lot of experience and coming in on the bus he gave me some advice on how to play in the first match," Han said.

Han will face a tough task against Alamiyan, who is rated as the Middle East's best player. But Han will be preparing well ahead of the clash.

"I will talk to (Jens Lang) my coach and rest back at the Village before playing my next match."

Miao Miao kicked off her fourth Olympic campaign by upsetting Dana Hadacova from the Czech Republic in six sets.

Hadacova is ranked over 100 places higher than Miao, but the diminutive Australian was in control for most of the contest, winning 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7.

Miao was determined to repay the support she received both at the arena and from the 400 plus Australian team.

"I have had so much support from the big Australian team, with all the athletes supporting each other," Miao said.

"I tried really hard to show them (I appreciated the support)."

Despite the gap in the rankings, Miao was confident she could win.

"She is a strong European player, a professional," Miao said.

"I am really happy with my performance. I was prepared for a difficult game."

Making the win even more special was the fact Miao's parents had travelled from home to watch her play.

"My parents are here. My dad is my personal coach and mum is here too. It's a long way for them to come from Australia," she said

Miao will face Yi-Hua Yiang from Chinese Taipei in the second round later on Saturday.

Jian Fang Lay has easily moved into the second round of the women’s singles, with a convincing win over Brazil’s Ugia Silva. 

After dropping the first set, Lay rallied to win 8-11, 11-1, 11-5, 11-6, 11-1. She will now tackle Li Xue of France for a place in the third round.

“I was nervous in the first set and couldn’t concentrate,” Lay said.

“When you get behind you have to concentrate to come back.”

Lay is representing Australia at her fourth Olympics, having debuted in 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

After losing three times this year to Hungary’s Adam Pattantyus, William Henzell could have been excused for letting out a huge sigh when the draw for this year’s men’s singles was made.

But Henzell turned the tables on his opponent, winning 12-10, 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9 to advance to the second round.

Henzell saved two set points in the opening set, before comfortably advancing to the next round.

“It means so much to me,” Henzell said.

“The focus I can have on these events makes a difference. I have had 18 months focus on this first match and I got the result. I wanted this so, so much from the first point.”

He will now face regular training partner Joao Monteiro of Portugal for a place in the third round

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.

Henzell quit his job at Slater & Gordon and moved to Austria in the lead-up to the Games to ensure he maximised his preparation. That move clearly paid off on Saturday. 

Kevin Diggerson in London

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