by Wade Townsend
Here Comes Hugo
The first match in Rio for Jun Mizutani will be against Hugo Calderano — #hugomania — and who would want that? An in form opponent and more than 5,000 Brazilians cheering against you in the stands. It’s going to be a rough ride for Mizutani. They’ve played once before and Jun won in six games, but he will have to do more this time around to neutralise the threat of a rapidly maturing Calderano. Would a win for the Brazilian even be considered an upset at this point? It’s going to be huge — maybe the biggest day three moment in Rio, in any sport. Don’t miss it. Seriously.
All Eyes on Ai
Japan’s attention will no longer be divided. With Ishikawa out of the singles, all eyes will be on Ai Fukuhara as she plays Daniela Monteiro Dodean. While the top of the draw has opened up, Fukuhara finds herself in the loaded bottom half. It’s time for the Japanese star to use her experience and step up to chase a podium finish. Meanwhile, the best medal chance for the Romanian is in the teams, Daniela definitely has the talent to cause the Japanese audience some concern. Follow this match to see how Fukuhara responds to the pressure of a nation on her shoulders.
Start Your Engines
This matchup has been anticipated since the draw: Zhang Jike versus Chien-An Chen. Zhang leads Chen four-two head to head. The last encounter was at the Korea Open where Chen won by the narrowest of margins in thee seventh. But that was more than a month ago in a quiet hall in Incheon. Zhang is by far the most inconsistent of the Chinese national team on the World Tour but it has never stopped him from taking the titles that count. He is already among the all-time greats of the game, and his fans trust their man to rise to the occasion; especially when a history making double Grand Slam is on the cards. Chen didn’t look in the best form against He Zhiwen in the previous round and is going to have to step things up. Expect Zhang to fall back on his arsenal of weapons — a magic reverse serve, the bendiest banana flick in the world and tree-trunk quads — to take the match.
Defence! *clap clap clap* Defence!
Yesterday we saw Ishikawa go down to a lower ranked DPR Korea defender. Germany’s Petrissa Solja is hoping to do better. She is sitting at number 15 in the world and will be up against Ri Myong Sun who is some 20 spots below. We don’t often get to see the players from DPR Korea, the nation only ever competing in the biggest events, but when they’re around medals are always within their reach. Solja scored herself a bronze at last year’s World Cup, while Myong Sun took silver at the World Team Cup. Expect to see DPR Korea once again be a step ahead of Solja and upset the seeding.
When world number one Ma Long steps on to the court he is going to be chasing Olympic gold to complete his Grand Slam and make his mark in the history books. Without it, Ma’s seemingly invincible winning streaks on the World Tour will be relegated to the footnotes in Zhang Jike’s domination of the decade. His first opponent will be Jung Youngsik. Jung Youngsik is a very talented athlete who as been performing well on the World Tour. However he needs to get a game on the board early in the match and hope for a bit of luck. Even then, does anyone think he can overcome Ma Long? Watch for a clinical display from the world number one as he begins his hunt for gold. Don’t blink, it’s going to be quick. Be on the lookout for a two minute game — Ma might as well be playing TTX.
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