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Top favorite Zhang Jike trudges into quarterfinals

07-31-2012 07:06 BJT Special Report:2012 London Olympic Games |

By Sportswriter Chang Ailing

LONDON, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Five-time Olympian Vladimir Samsonov from Belarus almost sent top seed Zhang Jike back home Monday night, as he dragged the heavily favored Chinese into a tight seven-set match in the men's singles fourth round.

It didn't start well for Zhang, who was quickly beaten by Samsonov 11-4 in the first set. Zhang seemed to wake up in the following two sets, winning 11-7 and 11-5.

Samsonov, however, regained the upper hand in the fourth and fifth sets, pushing Zhang to the verge of elimination. The two fought fiercely for every point in the ensuing set amid screams and shouts from the crowd. Zhang won the last two sets in 11-7, narrowly retaining a seat in the quarterfinals.

"I felt a bit stiff in the early half of the match," said Zhang. "When I trailed 2-3, for a moment, I thought I was going to lose the game. Then I thought: even if I lose the game, that won't be the end of the world. Then I started to really go for it."

The huge pressure has apparently taken a toll on Zhang, who said he felt his hand movement couldn't match his footwork in the beginning.

"Except for the second set (which Zhang won 11-7), Samsonov made me uncomfortable in all the other sets. I haven't played a game as difficult as this for a long time."

China's head coach Liu Guoliang said he was nervous during Zhang's game, worried that his student might crack under pressure.

Li added, when Zhang was 2-3 down, he told Zhang to let go the result and play freely.

"Zhang's tough match rang an alarming bell to the Chinese team," Liu said.

Samsonov was satisfied with his performance.

"Zhang was a bit nervous. But then, he was in his game. He started to make less and less mistakes," he said. "It became more and more difficult to win a point. So I had to risk a little more. With that, I started to make some mistakes. Maybe I rushed a little.

"Sometimes I had good opportunities to attack, but I missed those balls. It was a close game. There were some decisive points and long rallies, where both players actually had a chance to win."

Zhang's teammate Wang Hao cruised over Singapore's Gao Ning, securing a position in the quarterfinals.

The top two seeds in the women's singles, Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia, also breezed through to the quarterfinals.

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Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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