SPORTS

Veteran table-tennis star rolls back the clock to knock out world’s No. 2

Swedish veteran Jan-Ove Waldner rolled back the years to give China’s latest batch of table-tennis champions a reminder of why he is one of the greatest players the game has seen. Waldner, 38, knocked Chinese world number two Ma Lin out of the singles fourth round, just hours after teaming up with Jorgen Persson to dispatch China’s number two seeds Kong Linghui and Wang Hao in the doubles. The 1992 Olympic champion and reigning singles silver medalist put his hands on his hips and shook his head in disbelief after defeating Ma, who is 14 years his junior, in front of a raucous crowd of Swedish supporters. «It was like a shock for me,» Waldner, who is seeded 16th in the singles, said after his 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5, 11-9 win. «It’s an unbelievable day. First to beat them [Kong and Wang] in the doubles and then Ma Lin… two top seeds in one day. It’s not bad.» Waldner, the 1989 and 1997 world champion, has worked hard to revive his career after suffering a broken ankle in 2002 that kept him out of the game for eight months. He said that, following an intense training camp with more than 10 other top European table-tennis players in Italy leading up to Athens, he was the fittest he had been since the Sydney Olympics. The round of 16 draw saw plenty of other upsets yesterday, with ninth-seeded German Timo Boll defeating Austria’s reigning world champion, Werner Schlager, four sets to three, 11-6 in the decider. Hong Kong’s world number 42, Leung Chu-yan, also took out Bulgarian sixth seed Vladimir Samsonov 4-3. Chinese world number one Wang Liqin restored some order with a straightforward 4-1 win over South Korean 11th seed Joo Sae Hyuk. (AFP)