17-year-old Shin tops 58-year-old Ni in women's singles

Posted at 12:21 AM, Jul 25, 2021

What separated Luxembourg's Xia Lian Ni and Korea's Shin Yubin in the second round of women's singles on Sunday? 

One game, nine feet of table, and about 41 years of life experiences.

Age was but a number on Sunday afternoon when 58-year-old Ni and 17-year-old Shin did battle in the second round of women's table tennis singles. Despite the experienced Ni mounting a strong challenge, it was the youthful and energetic Shin that advanced to the third round.

Shin's vicious forehand came to life as the match progressed, as her pace and placement kept Ni constantly guessing. Game point in Game 4 perfectly summed up Shin's performance on the night - after placing balls to Ni's left for most of the game, she chose to send a forehand shot to Ni's right. Ni was anticipating Shin to go the same direction she'd been going all game and was reduced to a spectator as the ball flew past her right arm.

Ni dominated the first game, winning 11 of 13 points, but Shin leveled the score with a thrilling Game 2 win that finished 19-17. The two again traded Games 3 and 4 before Shin took Game 5. Ni bested Shin in Game 6, setting up a winner-take-all Game 7.

Ni grabbed a 2-0 lead, but it was then that Shin took command and ripped off eight straight points - in no small part thanks to that overpowering forehand. Ni couldn't orchestrate a run of her own, and Shin cruised to an 11-5 win in the final game.

After seven games of intense concentration, we finally saw the seasoned Ni crack - she offered her opponent a smile as the two tapped paddles after the match. Not much, but enough to acknowledge the impressive feat that her 41-year junior had just pulled off.

This was Ni's fifth Olympics, following appearances at Rio 2016, London 2012, Beijing 2008 and Sydney 2000. It marks only the second time that she's failed to reach the third round (London 2012).

And it's a stark contrast to her opponent Shin, who is appearing in her first ever Olympic Games.

Shin's third round opponent is eighth-ranked Hoi Kem Doo from Hong Kong. The two will play on Monday at approximately 2:15 a.m. EST (3:15 p.m. local).