28 July 2021
Lay’s winning streak stops in the third round of Women’s Singles
Jian Fang Lay could not keep her winning streak alive and bowed out of the Olympic table tennis Women’s Singles tournament after losing to no.12 seed and 3-time European champion Ying Han of Germany in the third round.
At the end of an exciting match, Han defeated the 48-year-old Australian in straight games (11-9, 11-9, 11-7, 11-8) to clinch a spot in the round of 16.
The result tells only half of the story, as Lay was first off the blocks with an impressive 5-0 start and kept the lead for most of the first game. The German – an Olympic silver medallist from the Team event at Rio 2016 – didn’t lose her composure and slowly clawed her way back. She was already within striking distance when a controversial referee decision on a ball that hit the side edge of the table favoured her, much to Lay’s dismay. Han took the opportunity to take control of the final rallies and wrap the first game.
The match continued to be fought point for point in the second game, with the two opponents still locked at 9-9. Once again, Han kept her nerve in crunch time to edge Lay 11-9 and win the game, before taking the third in stride.
Lay did not go down without a fight and tried to mount a comeback in the fourth set. She steadily built a lead in the early rallies and looked like she could get a game back when Han scored eight consecutive points to close the contest with her first match point.
Had she won, Jian Fang Lay would have achieved the best result ever for an Australian in the Women’s Singles event at the Games, a record she had already tied by qualifying for the third round.
After the match, Lay was very disappointed and said it will take time to appreciate her good result in Tokyo.
“In the first game, I still had a chance. But in the end, I just tried my best. I wanted to get a good result and make my team proud,” Lay said.
Head coach John Murphy said table tennis fans can expect some more greatness from Jian Fang Lay.
“From an Australian perspective, we know what Jian can achieve,” he said. “We knew coming here that if anyone was going to have big results, that was going to be Jian.
“We are a bit disappointed as I concur with Jian that this was a match that she could win, but when the competition is over we will reflect on her very good result.
“We know that Jian has got more in her. Whether it’s going to be at the Commonwealth Games, or at the Olympics again, this is definitely not the end of the road for Jian in terms of big results,” Murphy said.
If she qualified for the 2024 Olympics, the Paris Games would be Lay’s seventh – tying an all-time record for table tennis.
“I have no idea about that. It’s too far away. Four years ahead, a lot can happen,” Lay said.
The Tokyo Games are not over for Jian Fang Lay, as she will take to the court again on Sunday 1 August alongside teammates Michelle Bromley and Milly Tapper. Lay and Han might face off again as Australia takes on no.3 seed Germany in the round of 16 of the team event.
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