China dominates table tennis doubles at Saudi Smash

China dominates table tennis doubles at Saudi Smash
China dominates table tennis doubles at Saudi Smash

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - SEOUL: The Hyo-Joo Kim fan club was treated to a clinic at the New Korea Country Club, as an eagle-birdie finish catapulted the world No. 12 to the top of the leaderboard at the Team Series presented by PIF–Korea.

The 2014 Evian Championship winner was trailed by her devoted fans across the undulating landscape of New Korea Country Club, with the climax coming on the last two holes. A remarkable 60-yard eagle on the eighth hole, followed by a birdie on nine, propelled her to a four-under-par score, secured top spot at the close of play.

With the course proving tough for the field, Hyo-Joo Kim was able to use her knowledge of the course to her advantage, taking sole lead into the second day of the tournament, in her Aramco Team Series presented by PIF debut.

“I wish they had played the music a bit louder, but it was quite enjoyable,” said the leader of her debut. “Also, it was the first time playing with four people in a match. I’m working on the things that I wanted to improve this year and I feel like it’s getting better and better.”

Colombian Mariajo Uribe posted an impressive early score, with an opening round of three-under-par keeping her hot on the heels of Hyo-Joo Kim.

Uribe, who won her first LET event in Australia in March, is looking to make the most of her final year on tour before retiring after the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s a tough course, so it’s good to be taking advantage of those opportunities, and we’re happy to be close to the (top of the) leaderboard,” said Uribe.

“This is my last year traveling the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. My sister-in-law came with me, so we’ve been buying a lot of Korean skincare products and just going around eating my favorite foods, like Korean barbecue.”

On the team side of the event, Team Gustavsson stormed into an early lead, with a score of 13-under-par placing them atop the leaderboard at the close of play. Made up of Johanna Gustavsson, Laura Beveridge, Gemma Clews and amateur Jaeho Shin, the team sit in pole position to claim the team trophy on Saturday.

“I hit a lot of fairways,” said captain Gustavsson, who finished the day one-under-par. “I drove it very well, putted OK, but missed a few chances, so hopefully tomorrow there’s a chance to be even better.”

World No. 8 Charley Hull finished the day even par, after an up-and-down day recording four birdies and four bogeys, while LPGA star Danielle Kang struggled, recording a score of eight-over-par, with two double-bogeys on the front nine an unfortunate start.

It was a tough day of golf for the most part, with high scores on the leaderboard demonstrating the challenge that New Korea County Club will pose this weekend. 

Indeed, only 14 players finished the day on even par or lower. However, forecast rain for day two could improve scores, helping slow the action around the greens, and offering more birdie opportunities.

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