China’s Chen Meng and Fan Zhendong, the world No 1s, advanced to the Olympic women’s and men’s singles semifinals on Wednesday along with teammate Sun Yingsha.
Chen had to dig deep and fight back to beat Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem 4-2, as she bids to preserve China’s undefeated record in Olympic women’s singles.
“Once I entered the playing arena I could feel myself tighten up. I felt nerves, my body felt a bit heavy,” Chen said.
“When I was 2-0 down, although I was quite tight, I was resolute. I took it one point at a time. At the Olympics, until the final point, anything can happen. As long as I don’t give up, I can turn it around.”
The match was interrupted several times by the umpire ordering Doo to cover a brand logo on her shorts with black tape, which kept falling off.
Doo said the distraction did not affect her play.
“I felt my performance was better compared to the last two matches that I played yesterday. I was able to exert all tactics that I had planned with my coach prior to the match, and I gave it my all,” Doo told Reuters.
Sun, ranked third in the world, earned a semifinal spot with 4-0 wins in all three matches.
Japan’s medal favourite Mima Ito, the biggest rival to the Chinese heavyweights, kept her run going with a confident 4-0 victory over South Korea’s Jeon Jihee.
“I’m enjoying every single match. I’m going to enjoy it to win it again tomorrow,” Ito told reporters.
In the men’s singles, Fan crushed 29-year-old South Korean Jeoung Youngsik 4-0.
“I was able to play a steady match, as I expected. I knew that it’d be a difficult match since it’s against the world’s top-class player who has played at the Rio Games. I made sure to prepare by making adjustments to my tactics,” Fan told Reuters.
The 24-year-old said he had used unusual methods to keep motivated.
“That could sometimes be striking a pose, or talking with myself. I do things that make me feel positive on the spot,” he said.
Chen’s semifinal opponent on Thursday will be Yu Mengyu of Singapore who beat Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa in the quarterfinals. Fan will play Lin Yun Ju of Taiwan.
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