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China's women pack into singles semifinals in Olympic table tennis
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22:02, August 21, 2008

China almost guaranteed a gold medal in the Olympic women's singles table tennis event, with its three players all packing into the semifinals on Thursday.

World number one Zhang Yining, world champion Guo Yue and Grand Slam veteran Wang Nan continued to steamroll over all before them after winning a team gold earlier this week.

Singapore's Li Jia Wei also reached the semifinals, showing no signs of slowing down in her drive for another medal. Li and her teammates won a silver in the teams, which is Singapore's first Olympic medal in 48 years.

Zhang edged out Feng Tianwei of Singapore 13-11, 12-14, 14-12, 12-10, 13-11 in their quarterfinal clash, which was the most closely-fought battle of the day. It was also the first time that the defending champion was really made to sweat for her victory.

"I was prepared for a tough match because I lost to Feng at the Asian Cup in March," Zhang told reporters after the match.

"Compared to the last time, I feel that she has improved a lot. You never know how far young players like Feng will go. She will have a great future," she added.

Zhang also said that the racket she usually used failed to pass the quality check-up for an uneven surface and that the backup one was a reason why she was having a hard time.

"I could not attack because of the rubber on the backup racket, which was glued three days ago," she complained.

Despite a loss, 22-year-old Feng's confidence got a big boost. "In terms of technique and strategy, I'm no worse than Zhang," she said, adding she was certain about winning a medal at the next Olympic Games.

Another closely-fought match was played between former Chinese Wang Chen of the United States and Li Jia Wei.

Li said she was satisfied at the 15-13, 11-6, 12-10, 13-15, 11-4 victory because "Wang was a world champion and played very well today with furious attacks."

Wang announced her retirement earlier in the day, after reaching the quarterfinals with a hard-earned victory over the world's leading defensive player Kim kyung-ah of South Korea.

"This is my last competition. I just wanted to try my best and got every point that I could," Wang said. "Tactically, I had a chance to win, but I'm physically weaker and overtired after the match in the morning."

However, the 34-year-old was happy about the results, saying that "I reached the last eight, which is the best result the United States has ever had in Olympic table tennis."

Former Chinese Wu Xue of the Dominican Republic posed little threat to China's Guo in their quarterfinal match, losing 11-5, 16-14, 13-11, 11-5, while veteran Wang fought off the challenge from Tie Yana of Hong Kong of China 11-5, 11-4, 11-13, 11-2, 11-4.

"It's last time I represent China, so I will try my best no matter how exhausted I am," 30-year-old Wang said. The world's most decorated table tennis player said earlier this year that she would retire after the Beijing Games.

Source: Xinhua

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1 China 46 15 22 83
2 USA 27 32 29 88
3 Great Britain 17 11 11 39
4 Russia 16 16 19 51
5 Australia 11 13 14 38
6 Germany 11 8 12 31
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