Commonwealth Games: 11-year-old Welsh table tennis sensation Anna Hursey drawing crowds

Australia, meet Anna Hursey — a shy, unassuming girl who at the age of just 11, is a full international representative for Wales in women's table tennis.

She's the youngest athlete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and it is believed she is the youngest athlete to represent Wales at senior level in any sport.

And while the dream for medals in the teams event is over after a quarter-final loss to Australia, Hursey is still gearing up for a shot at the singles starting April 10.

In her home country, she's a household name. In Australia, we're only just discovering this table tennis savant. But already, Hursey is drawing a crowd of international admirers.

Welsh fans waved flags and roared at every point won in her earlier teams singles tie against Sri Lanka's Ishara Manikku Badu.

Inside the Oxenford show court, with the seats filled with fans clad in Australian colours — it was obvious who the neutrals were backing.

Manikku Badu's experience told in the singles tie, taking a 2-0 lead against the Welsh prodigy.

But the crowd was firmly on the edge of its seat as Hursey fought back spectacularly to level the match at two games apiece, showing bottle to win the fourth game 12-10.

When the rallies became rapid, Hursey more than held her own against a physically stronger opponent, collecting a clutch of incredible winners that drew enormous cheers from all watching.

The Sri Lankan would win the deciding game, and take out the match to level the tie at 1-1, but the close nature of the match kept up Wales' momentum in the tie.

"[Badu] has played in two or three Commonwealth Games so we knew it was going to be tough, she's really experienced," Welsh coach Stephen Jenkins told the ABC.

"She [Hursey] almost came back, she was 2-0 down, it just shows how much she can fight. I take massive positives from that match. I'm really proud of her."

Hursey straight back off the canvas to clinch doubles win

Despite the setback, Jenkins had no qualms throwing Hursey into the mixer once more for the doubles tie. It paid off in spades.

Paired with Chloe Thomas, the Welsh duo proved too much for the Sri Lankan doubles unit, winning in straight sets as Hursey demonstrated flair and a steely appetite for winning.

Understandably, Hursey doesn't talk to the media. But her coach and team-mates do the talking for her, and speak in glowing terms about their young team-mate.

"We feed off each other, we help each other through the match," Thomas said after Wales won the tie 3-1.

Welsh team-mate Charlotte Carey told the ABC everyone was supporting Hursey and helping her stay focused.

"We're all getting along really well. We're all enjoying playing together, we're all enjoying the company," Carey said.

"We've all got to support each other as a team at the end of the day. Me and Chloe are the more experienced players, I've played three Commonwealths and Chloe's played two. We've just got to keep her focused and try and help her to play her best, really."

Hursey's Wales comes up short against Australia

Sadly, it wasn't a perfect day for Hursey, as Wales lost out in the quarter-final to host Australia later in the day.

Hursey did feature in the doubles tie, again teaming up with Thomas, but the duo fell short against Jian Fang Lay and Miao Miao in a convincing straight-sets loss.

Australia won the tie 3-1 thanks to the doubles win, on top of singles wins to Melissa Tapper and Miao.

China coaching sees Hursey streak past her peers

Hursey's mind-boggling climb up the table-tennis ladder began at age five when she received one-on-one coaching while on holiday with her parents in China — the place to go if you're serious about the sport.

She would continue her training and schooling in Harbin, China over the years, winning the Welsh under-18 title at the age of nine.

In China, she trains 30 hours a week, but coach Jenkins insists a proper life balance for a young child remains paramount.

"As long as she's happy and enjoying her training and her tournaments, and she keeps [improving] as a player, it's good enough for me, good enough for her, and good enough for her parents, so everybody's relaxed about it. There's no pressure from anyone," he said.

"A good life balance, you know, she goes to school, got good friends, a social life as well. Table tennis is really important to her, but she's got other things as well."

Fascinating character on the court

Hursey provides compelling viewing. When returning serve, she stands almost crane-like, her bat tilted ready for a deceptive spinning return.

A shy girl off the court, the prodigy from Cardiff's persona switches immediately to an intensely focused, unfazed competitor when entering the arena.

Despite the loss to Australia, Hursey is on track to win more than just table-tennis matches on the Gold Coast.

Coach Jenkins says everything is set up to give Hursey the support she needs in what is hoped is a long career in table tennis.

"There's a good relationship with the parents, good relationship with the team," Jenkins said.

"Team Wales have been absolutely fantastic, they're always behind us. Couldn't ask for a better team and crew behind us.

"They're really supportive. It's a family, really."