Table tennis: Zhang ensures more misery for Wang

Updated: Thursday, 02 Aug 2012 17:05

Zhang Jike completed the table tennis Grand Slam as Wang Hao endured more Olympics heartache at the London 2012 Games.

Wang had ended with silver at the two previous showpieces, in Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004.

And the 28-year-old failed to go one step further again, meaning he will likely end his glittering career without winning all of table tennis' biggest prizes.

Both entered the final knowing they could become just the fourth man to complete the Slam of World Cup, World Championships and Olympic success, following in the footsteps of countrymen Liu Guoliang - who now coaches China's men - and Kong Linghui as well as Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner.

Yet it was 22-year-old Zhang who came out on top, romping to a 4-1 (18-16, 11-5, 11-5, 10-12, 13-11) success and, in the process, becoming the youngest player to achieve the feat.

As a result, China is now halfway to its target of winning every table tennis gold on offer, with the team events to start tomorrow.

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Zhang immediately imposed himself on the contest, with his backhand proving particularly difficult to return.

Wang, however, showed his experience in chipping away at the youngster in a tightly-fought scrap.

The scores had been locked at deuce seven times when Zhang, having spurned five game points, took a time-out on another.
Despite Liu not being in the corner - given he coaches both - it paid dividends as a trademark backhand flick return moved him 1-0 ahead.

Wang did not manage to display the same power in the next and, as a result, his opponent took full advantage.

With his elegant backhands being complemented by powerful forehands, Zhang was proving too much for his countryman.

After taking the second with ease, Zhang initially struggled in the next - only to show he had plenty of brawn to go with brain.

Delivering his shots with added power and less guile, the junior competitor got back into the game as Wang wilted.
Zhang took the third and looked set to complete victory in straight games, yet Wang was not finished.

With his opponent looking like sealing the win, Wang produced a late rally in a fourth that featured several errors, with a cross-table forehand reducing the deficit.

That seemed to create some nerves within Zhang and suddenly his rival was in the ascendancy having found his range, particularly on the backhand.

But, having been 5-0 and 6-3 down, the world champion showed great resolve to level matters at seven apiece.

In the next point, there was then a brief argument between the players when Jike thought the ball had clipped the table, only for the umpire to call out and give Wang the point.

Replays showed it had, but, much to the dismay of Zhang - who expected his opponent to have seen the contact, the point remained with Wang.

The youngster again showed great heart, however, and eventually sealed his exceptional triumph.

There was no repeat of the celebration Zhang delivered after beating the same opponent in last year's World Championships final - when he ripped his shirt off - but the victor delighted in a fine effort with no less vigour.

After winning the final point, Zhang jumped over the boards that surround the table and kissed the top of the podium.

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