The Chinese Team, including Zhang Jike had their debut yesterday for the Men Singles. In the opening round, Zhang Jike was superb in 4-0 against Bora Vang. However, later that day, Zhang Jike faced the challenge from the veteran Vladimir Samsonov.
During their preparations before the Olympics, Liu Guoliang has already emphasized to his players the degree of difficulty in the Olympics. "We already felt before that the competition will be very hard. I told him (Zhang Jike) to have the best preparation for Samsonov." Liu Guoliang said.
In addition, Zhang Jike also admitted in an interview before that he has already seen a hard battle against Samsonov if he goes through the Round 16. Indeed, after a sweep victory in the Round 32, the top seed and the reigning world champion Zhang Jike found himself a tough opponent.
Unlike the previous round, Zhang Jike entered into the match on a slow pace. In the first set, he was down in 4-11. The top seed managed to recover and posted a leaden 2-1. However, Vladimir Samsonov did not give up and inflicted great threat with a 3-2 lead. Zhang Jike recovered in the sixth set. But when Samsonov still showed strength in the decider, Liu Guoliang somehow already accepted the possibility of a defeat.
Liu Guoliang called for a timeout and said this to Zhang Jike: "You have already lost the match. You are now eliminated. No more chance to play in the Singles so go out there and have a good fight!"
Indeed, those words struck the Tibetan Mastiff and showed his true level. At the end Zhang Jike sealed the full seven-set match with 4-11, 11-7, 11-5, 8-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7.
"I'm still nervous. I'm afraid he cannot stand!" Liu Guoliang exclaimed after the match.
"Samsonov really played well today. Zhang Jike going through such a test was extremely hard. He has a very strong ability to capture the veterans. As long as there is still an opportunity, he will certainly seize it. Zhang Jike's subsequent matches will still be very tough. This match was a very great exercise." Liu Guoliang added.
Before, Liu Guoliang has expressively said his worries on Timo Boll. However, yesterday, Timo Boll became the biggest upset in the competition after losing against Adrian Crisan. Could this now make Liu Guoliang relax?
"Whoever standing in front of us is our opponent. There are always those opponents who want to upset us so what we can do is to ensure that won't happen." Liu Guoliang replied.
At the end, the head coach saw the lighter side of the situation. "This is actually a good thing for Zhang Jike and the team. Even for Wang Hao, this is also a wake-up call. I hope that Zhang Jike after completing this game, will be able to find the momentum in the matches." Liu Guoliang concluded.
Between the fifth Olympic timer Samsonov and the first timer Zhang Jike, the latter still has a lot more to take. What happened yesterday was the baptismal rights of Zhang Jike. Having such kind of experience will definitely help the young Zhang Jike in his future growth as an athlete, and perhaps at present in London.
Zhang Jike in the 2012 London Olympics
Photo source: sohu.com