by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Unquestionably, Zhang Jike was the clear favourite; they had played twice before on the international stage; both times Zhang Jike had won, both times in straight games.
However, it was some time since they met; in 2012 they confronted each other at the Asian Championships in Macau, one year later at the Times Property World Team Classic in Guangzhou.
The contest between Koki Niwa and Zhang Jike was a contest between two players whom one might consider to be of not too dissimilar characters; are they not both big occasion players?
Consider their results on recent months and years on the ITTF World Tour, compare their efforts with their colleagues and they will not be at the top of the list!
Ask ten or so players of the modern era who are outside the current top 20 on the World rankings, the name of their best win and I suspect Koki Niwa and Zhang Jike might be mentioned more than once!
Lost First Game
In Rio de Janeiro, Koki Niwa won the first game but that was not a factor which caused panic stations in the mind of Zhang Jike; he was acclimatising, keep coach Liu Guoliang on his toes.
True to his character, Zhang Jike duly responded.
“I made some mistakes in the first game, from the second game onwards, I began to perform normally”, said Zhang Jike. “In the first game, I was affected by the match between Dima and Vladi; my match was scheduled to play at 5.00 pm but their match didn’t end until 5.30 pm.”
It was an agonising time, thoughts no doubt flashing through the mind.
“I kept telling myself to stay focused, it was hard to concentrate in the first game”, added Zhang Jike. “I did not quite get into a rhythm at the beginning of my match, luckily I found it back later.”
At the semi-final stage Vladimir Samsonov awaits; the semi-final and the finals will be played on Thursday 11th August.