Zhang Ning of China plays a shot to Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand during their women's singles round of 32 badminton match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008.
Zhang Ning of China plays a shot to Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand during their women's singles round of 32 badminton match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008. [Agencies]
Zhang's unstable shots in the first game put the hearts of 7,000 spectators in their throats when the 24-year-old Thai made the defending champion running aimlessly on the court. Zhang lost her services frequently and her shots either went too long or went into the nets. Even in her game point, the world No 2 seemed a bit tense and lost her pace to the petite Thai player.
With a returning shot that went wide, Zhang lost the first game 21-23.
"My strategy was wrong in the first game. I tried to get mobilized like her, but that didn't work," said Zhang after the match.
"The first game is always difficult, especially when playing Ponsana. She's always a tough player to play for me," she said.
Since the beginning of the second game, the defending champion regained her rhythm. Zhang tried for more angles instead and played more aggressively, keeping a clear lead from the Thai since the start of the game.
Smiles on Zhang's face again, even when she chipped a ball into the nets when she was leading 17 to 12, since the Athens women's single's champion believed she had the match in her hand. She won the second game 21-17.
"In the following match, I have better stamina. I know myself, the more difficult I am in, the more stronger I feel," said Zhang, wearing a golden necklace and a golden yellow dress.
Like Zhang said, the decider appeared to be less competitive with the Thai growing more fatigue. Zhang took the final game 21-7. The whole match finished in 57 minutes before a roaring home crowd.
Zhang jumped in jubilation after the match, and the delighted player even took a short moment to sign a few photographs from the crowd before going to the mixed zone.
"Each match will be a tough match for me, but I have prepared myself for the challengers ahead of me in the next rounds," said Zhang.
Zhang will face South Korea'sJun Jaeyounin the round of 16.
Drawn in the same half with Zhang, Denmark's Tine Rasmussen had a much earlier time on a court beside. Though the match of the Danish started 10 minutes later than Zhang's, she left the court after a straight-game win while Zhang was still playing in the second game.
Meanwhile, World No 1 women's doubles, China's Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen defeated their biggest enemies, India's Marissa sisters, in nail biting two-game victory. Remarkably, one rally in the second game took 80 shots from both sides and finished with a precise drop shot from India's Vita Marissa.
Badminton preliminaries will continue on Sunday evening.