Olympics: Chinese paddler Zhang says first match crucial
London, July 27 (IANS) Olympic table tennis top seed Zhang Jike is fully focusing on preparations for his first match, which he said is "very crucial" to his quest for a gold.
The Chinese favourite faces a likely fourth-round encounter against Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, a player who has been in and around the world top 10 for over a decade, Xinhua reported.
But Zhang said Vladimir is not his concern for the time being.
"Vladimir is one of the top players in Europe. Competition against him will be very tough. But now, I'm focusing on my first match. I'll prepare for the match against him after that," he said.
Zhang would meet Vladimir July 30 if both win their respective third-round matches.
The Olympic table tennis competition starts July 28. As players ranked top 16 in singles will qualify directly to the third round, it may be dangerous for high seeds like Zhang as they will have to hit form soon against their opponents who has already survived a couple of games.
Michael Maze of Denmark, Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany and Jun Mizutani of Japan also line up in the top half of the singles draw, which was made at ExCeL Wednesday.
Zhang said many people thought that the competition in the top half will be tougher as the players in his half are all very strong. But he believed the top 16 seeds all have a shot at the medals.
"Preparations before competitions are very important. The Olympics are actually a competition of attitude and preparations," he said.
A right handed dynamic attacker, 24-year Zhang is the reigning World Champion and World Cup Champion in 2011. If he wins the gold medal in London, he would become the player who achieve a "Gram Slam" of major titles within the shortest time.
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