Table tennis gets off to an early start at the Rio Olympics as both the men’s and women’s singles tournaments begin play Saturday morning with a dozen qualifying matches before the first full round of action in the afternoon. American teenager Kanak Jha is the only member of Team USA in the preliminary round; he’ll square off against Iran’s Nima Alamian at 9:30 AM ET. Jha, the reigning U.S. Table Tennis National Champion, is seen by many not only as the future of American table tennis, but also USA Table Tennis’ best men’s player entering Rio.
Jha’s compatriot and teammate Yijun Feng received a bye to the first round and will face Zhiwen He of Spain at 3:45 PM ET. Feng was the first member of the American table tennis contingent to secure a quota spot in Rio after winning at Olympic Trials in April.
In the women’s bracket, American stalwarts Lily Zhang and Jennifer Wu were also placed in the first round and stand more than a puncher’s chance of advancing to the second day of matches. Zhang, winner of the women’s singles title at the U.S. Table Tennis National Championships, will face Arvelo Gremlis of Venezuela in the first round at 10:15 AM ET. Wu is matched against Odorova Eva of Slovakia, which her match set to begin at 11:00 AM ET.
The nature of the Olympic table tennis tournament – seeded players can receive a bye as far into the tournament as the third round – means the biggest names won’t see action until Sunday evening at the very earliest.
You can catch all the table tennis action from Rio live on NBCOlympics.com.