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China's sweep fails to enthuse official

CHINA swept all semifinal berths in the men's and women's singles events after winning a full set of mixed doubles medals at the world championships in Yokohama, Japan, yesterday.

Yao Zhenxu, a vice chairman of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), wasn't jumping in celebration. Rather, he was worried - about the sport's future at the Olympic Games.

"If one team keeps winning all at the world championships and Olympics, table tennis' Olympic future is in danger," said Yao, who has been the International Table Tennis Federation's technical chief since 1995.

China, which won all table tennis titles at the Beijing Olympics, saw the top four seeds - Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Ma Long and Wang Liqin reach the men's singles semifinals.

The women's semifinal spots were snapped up by Zhang Yining, Guo Yue, Li Xiaoxia, the top three seeds, and 10th-ranked Liu Shiwen.

Earlier in the afternoon, Li Ping and Cao Zhen combined to beat teammates Zhang Jike and Mu Zi 11-6, 4-11, 11-7, 9-11, 13-11, 11-8 to clinch the mixed doubles gold.

Despite the absence of no less than ten stars - Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Ma Long, Wang Liqin, Chen Qi, Zhang Yining, Li Xiaoxia, Guo Yue, Guo Yan and Liu Shiwen - China dominated the doubles.

It boasted all four semifinalists with Hao Shuai and Chang Chenchen plus Zhang Chao and Yao Yan taking the mixed bronze medals.

China booked three semifinal places in men's doubles, with Japan's Seiya Kishikawa and Jun Mizutani keeping the host happy.

The Japanese duo, who defeated Singapore's Gao Ning and Yang Zi 9-11, 11-2, 11-4, 4-11, 11-5, 13-11, will take on Ma Long and Xu Xin today with Hao Shuai and Zhang Jike playing an all-Chinese game against Chen Qi and Wang Hao.

Guo Yue and Li Xiaoxiao dampened Japanese enthusiasm by beating Ai Fukuhara and Sayaka Hirano 11-6, 11-9, 11-3, 12-10 in the women's doubles, and setting up a semifinal clash with Hong Kong pair Jiang Huajun and Tie Yana.

The other semifinal will see South Korea's Kim Kyung-ah and Park Mi-young go up against China's Ding Ning and Guo Yan.

"In recent world championships or Olympics, semifinals have always been more exciting than finals because finals have all been Chinese affairs," said Yao.

"I don't like watching Chinese vs. Chinese games either."


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