Defending champ Zhang passes test to reach semis

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 Zhang Jike in action in the game.

Gold medalist in London, Zhang Jike, kept his title defending campaign going on Tuesday, beating Japanese sensation Koki Niwa 4-1 to make the men' s singles semifinals.

Easily beaten 11-5 in the first set, the 28-year-old fought back in style from the second set, rounding up the five-set quarterfinal in 34 minutes, 5-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7, 11-4.

Trailing 7-5 in the fourth set, Zhang' s national team head coach Liu Guoliang, a table tennis Grand Slam winner himself, called a timeout and Zhang came back to win six points in a row and never looked back.

"My game was initially scheduled at 5:30 in the afternoon and I came to the stadium at 4:45 before knowing that (Dimitrij) Ovtchanov and (Vladimir) Samsonov' s match went just 2-2.

"So I waited and waited and found it hard to stay concentrated when I finally got to play my turn. That' s why I stumbled in the first set," said the table tennis Grand Slam winner.

The second seeded world NO. 4 will meet Belarus' 40-year-old veteran Samsonov in Thursday morning' s semifinals where he' ll try to set up an all-Chinese final with compatriot Ma Long whose quarterfinal clash against Nigeria' s "Black Horse" Quadri Aruna was scheduled later on Tuesday.

Earlier on the day, Samsonov outlasted European top paddler Ovtcharov of Germany 4-2 to advance to the men' s singles semifinals for the first time while playing at his sixth Olympic Games.

"I don' t want to put extra pressure on myself with the memories of London 2012. Each match is fresh new," added Zhang, the 2011 and 2013 world champion.

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