China's women duo Zhang Xi/Xue Chen beat Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs of the United States in a quarter final on Sunday, becoming the second Chinese team in the semifinal of women's beach volleyball tournament at the Beijing Olympics.
They are to meet their compatriots Tian Jia and Wang Jie in the semifinal on Aug. 19, thus a silver medal is secured for China, whose best Olympic finish was ninth, achieved by Tian and her former partner Wang Fei at the Athens Games.
The Chinese duo were not playing in their usual standard at the beginning of the first set, but showed their efficiency at the net in the latter half, reaching the set point 20-16 and ending the first set 21-17.
The Chinese played more relaxed in the second set and exerted greater pressure on the American duo at the net. The second set ended 21-13 in favor of the hosts.
"We didn't expect that we could have won so easily, but we prepared a lot for possible difficulties," said Xue after the match.
She said on the upcoming encounter with Tian/Wang: "We will still be the same. We just try our best. No matter who wins, the victory will be China's."
The Chinese pair has netted four FIVB World Tour gold medals and was also 2006 Asian Games champion.
Ranking fourth on the World Tour currently, the Chinese duo has also been considered as serious contenders for medals at the Beijing Olympics along with Tian Jia/Wang Jie.
"China played very well as usual. They scored a lot of aces and they switched their game to adapt to us during the match," Branagh commented on the match at a press conference after the match.
"It sucks, I'm not going to lie to you. We are used to being in the top four teams," said Youngs.
While Branagh appeared at her first Olympics, Elaine Youngs is in her third Olympics. Youngs, teaming up with then partner Holly McPeak, was bronze medalist at Athens Games.
In another quarter final on Sunday, the Chinese players easily beat an Austrian pair in straight sets. Both sets ended 21-12. The Chinese tandem dominated the match with strong serves and attacks, leaving the Austrian pair Doris Schwaiger/Stephanie Schwaiger no resistance most of the time.
"We played to our normal standard, and we didn't carry a burden today. We didn't think about anything, winning or losing," 1.87-meter-tall Wang said after the match.
(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)