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Wednesday, December 06, 2006
China stunned by Uzbekistan; Thailand almost toppled
By Andy Yanne @ 2:28 PM :: 1119 Views ::

After Paradorn Srichaphan had to retire midway against Denis Istomin due to a wrist injury, No. 1 seed Thailand was on the brink of elimination before the Ratiwatana brothers came good with a 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(2), win in the deciding doubles. Meanwhile, the mighty Chinese women's team was shell-shocked after losing both singles against Uzbekistan and was thus knocked out before the medal rounds amid being overwhelming favourites.

China, boasting world No. 21 Li Na and Asian number three Zheng Jie, lost both singles in three sets, as Uzbekistan advanced to the semifinals against No. 4 seeds India. Akgul Amanmuradova, ranked a lowly 132, produced arguably the best win of her career by beating world No. 33 Zheng Jie, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6. Busan gold medallist Iroda Tulyaganova, a former WTA Top-20 player, followed with an explosive, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, victory against Li Na to give the Uzbeks an unassailable 2-0 lead, rendering the doubles meaningless.

The immediate team to benefit from this absolute shocker is Sania Mirza's fourth-seeded Indian team, who will now face Uzbekistan instead of China for a place in the final. In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Japan and No. 3 Taiwan are headed for an eagerly-anticipated semifinal showdown.

In the men's team championship, Thailand will next face No. 4 seeds and defending champions Japan for a place in the men's team championship final. The Japanese easily took out Bahrain, conceding a mere three games in total.

A wrist injury suffered two months ago flared up at the most inopportune time for Paradorn, as he could not go on when trailing Uzbek number one, Denis Istomin, 6-3, 2-0. His condition will probably be listed as day-to-day but a number of sources in Doha had suggested it is a lot more serious than originally thought, significances of which extends way beyond the team championship.

Paradorn has five career ATP titles and reached a career-high No. 9 on the ATP Rankings eight months after winning the 2002 Asian Games gold medal.

Elsewhere, the one-two combo of Lu Yen-Hsun and Wang Yeu-Tzuoo proved too potent a weapon for Cecil Mamiit and Eric Taino as the Philippines was KO'd in round two of the Men's Team championship. After seeing off Leander Paes and company yesterday, No. 2 seeds Chinese Taipei looks stronger by the hour, as they distinguished Philippines' hope of a team medal with Wang Yeu-Tzuoo and Lu Yen-Hsun winning both singles against Eric Taino and Cecil Mamiit respectively.

Taino, ranked as high as No. 122 three years ago and a ten-year veteran on the pro circuit, could not cope with the speed and agility of Wang Yeu-Tzuoo, as the 21-year-old from Taipei got early breaks in both sets and never looked back. The two had been 2-2 in career head-to-heads, with the latter winning their most recent encounter in Cardiff earlier this year, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

Taino had attended UCLA in his college days and captained the Bruins as their number one player to the NCAA title before turning pro in 1997.

In the match-up between the opposing number ones, Mamiit, who peaked at No. 72 eight years ago, actually won the opening set against Lu but again youth triumphed over experience, as the world No. 89 from Taiwan kicked into higher gear towards the business end to secure a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, victory to propel his team to a semifinal date with Lee Hyung-Taik's third-seeded Korea later today.

Although Korea complete dominated proceedings against Qatar in a 3-0 win on Tuesday, it is interesting to note that the hosts has three teenagers on their team, with 16-year-old Abdulla Ali al Hajji as their starting singles player at the two spot. In addition, Qatari brothers Mohammed Saleh and Abdullah Saleh are the youngest entrants in the tennis discipline at 14 and 15 respectively. Moreover, they combined to win the doubles against Mongolia's Sikhjargal Sukhbaatar and Oyunbold Baatar, 6-4, 6-2, in the opening round of the team championship in what looks surely to be one of the Asian Games records in the "youngest" category.

The brothers are based at the Bruguera Tennis Academy and are looking at the Asian Games as a step forward in their burgeoning careers. The young Qataris realised their dream of representing their country in a major event, and bar the Olympic Games and the Davis Cup, the Asian Games is as big as it gets.

Opening round of the Mixed Doubles will begin on December 7 with the Wayne Wong/Tong Ka Po and Yu Hiu Tung/Lam Po Kuen partnerships slated to go up against a number of quality combinations such as India's Leander Paes/Sania Mirza, China's Zeng Shao-Xuan/Yan Zi, Japan's Takao Suzuki/Rika Fujiwara, China's Yu Xin-Yuan/Sun Tian-Tian, India's Mahesh Bhupathi/Shikha Uberoi, plus Taiwan's Wang Yeu-Tzuoo/Chuang Chia-Jung and Lu Yen-Hsun/Hsieh Su-Wei.

Men's Doubles and Women's Doubles are scheduled to begin on December 8, and the territory will be represented by the combinations of Wayne Wong/Yu Hiu Tung and Tong Ka Po/Lam Po Kuen respectively.

The Men's Singles and Women's Singles will also commence on December 8, with Wayne Wong, Yu Hiu Tung, Tong Ka Po, and Venise Chan slated for a tough assignment against some very quality opposition.


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