By Henry Chen
“The pervious matches are fought for my country, the finals will be for myself,” said Zhang Jike.
Earlier today, Zhang Jike survived another hurdle in the Olympic Singles where he disappointed the 40-year old veteran Vladimir Samsonov, denying him a chance to get into the finals.
It was a 4-1 victory for the Chinese player but the points in each game showed that it was indeed a close encounter: 11-9, 13-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9.
Now, after a few hours, Zhang Jike will have the battle of his life and it will be against Ma Long.
Why will this final match be the battle of his life?
First, it is the quadrennial Olympic Games and he is the defending champion. Based on record, there is still no one in the men’s division who has won the Olympic gold medal in the Singles twice, more so consecutively. If he misses this one, there could be no other chance.
Second, winning the Olympic Singles championship title would mean that he would be the first male player to have completed two rounds of the Grand Slam: World Cup, World Championships and the Olympic Games.
Those two will surely place him again in history books.
Third, the match is against Ma Long, his longtime nemesis. Many doubted Zhang Jike’s Grand Slam feat because he never encountered Ma Long in any of those competitions. Winning this match is another perfect opportunity for Zhang Jike to prove their doubts baseless.
There are a lot at stake for Zhang Jike in this match, and he cannot afford to miss it. Would he be able to perform?
Well, honestly, no one can tell the answer except for his actual performance later.
But, he has his own way of surprising people.
In the 2014 World Cup, Zhang Jike surprised everyone when he won against Ma Long in the finals. Not to mention, his rebellious celebration was equally surprising as well.
So for the final match later, what surprise from Zhang Jike awaits us? Would it be about his performance, his celebration, or both?