by Sportswriter Cao Jianjie
SUZHOU, China, April 28 (Xinhua) -- He Zhiwen, 33 days short of his 53rd birthday, lost his singles and mixed doubles games but reached the men's doubles third round at the world table tennis championships on Tuesday.
"I just play for fun and I didn't expect myself to go further here," said the oldest player at the championships on Tuesday.
The former Chinese who represents Spain, pairing with Sara Ramirez, lost the mixed doubles match to a Chinese Taipei duo but went on to win the men's doubles with Carlos Machado, beating Bulgaria's Teodor Alexandrov and Slovakia's Alexander Valuch 4-1.
The gardening-loving father of two lost his singles opener 4-3 to Poland's Jakub Dyjas in the afternoon.
"I used to be angry at losing games, but not any more, as I am getting old," said He.
"I kind of like life in Spain, which is quiet and in order, especially after my daughters, 21 and 17, left home - one in America and the other in Ireland."
He, who had played for China in the 1985 and 1987 world championships with the best singles finish being fifth, made a surprise run into the quarter-finals in the 1997 worlds and debuted in the Olympics in 2004.
The fast attacker in the traditional Chinese style stunned defending champion Werner Schlager from Austria in the 2005 worlds and became the oldest table tennis player at the 2008 Olympics where he lost in the second round.
He discourages youngsters from playing the penhold attacking style, branding it as "outdated" and "futureless".
A traditional penholder uses only one side of the racket for both strokes and grips the racket as if holding a pen.
The penhold grip, well suited for flat forehands and defensive dropshots, is short on backhand power, while a handshaker grips the racket as of if he is shaking someone's hand and uses one side of the racket for forehands and the other for backhands.
"Beginners should learn handshake style," he said.
Only one in 10 men on the world rankings uses penhold grip, with the women's top 10 all being handshakers.
Retirement is never on He's mind since he really enjoys the game.
"I will keep playing as long as I enjoy it," he said.
It seems Ni Xialian, the oldest women player at 52, hasn't had enough of table tennis, either.
Ni, who retired from the Chinese team 29 years ago and has represented Luxembourg since the 1991 worlds, handed a straight-set defeat to 18-year-old Nicole Tropsman from Israel in the afternoon.
"I have been in the sport for so long that I don't feel any pressure," she said.