Zheng Jie resurfacing in time for Olympics

July 16th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Serena Williams
Beijing, July 16 (Xinhua) If Zheng Jie thought winning two Grand Slam tennis events was tough, she now faces an even tougher job - to claim her first ever Olympic title on home soil. Zheng, who missed most of last year with an ankle injury, is a former Wimbledon and Australian Open doubles champion as well as an Asian Games doubles and singles winner.

Zheng’s latest success at Wimbledon has demonstrated that she is more than a doubles specialist. In the best performance by a Chinese player at a Grand Slam to date, wild card and 133rd ranked Zheng beat top seed Ana Ivanovic, 15th seed Agnes Szavay and 18th seed Nicole Vaidisova, bowing out to Serena Williams after a second set tie-break in the semi-finals.

The sensational run boosted China’s chances of landing tennis gold at the Games after a largely bleak 18-month run for its leading women players.

“After the August Olympics I might put more effort in the singles, but as for the Beijing Games, my focus is still on the doubles,” said Zheng, who turned 25 last week.

“Everybody wants more medals, but I think my partner Yan Zi and I appear more hopeful in the women’s doubles and we have been preparing for it for a long time.”

Before the ankle injury she had won 10 doubles titles with Yan and three singles titles but only added the Sydney doubles title after returning this season.

With long-time partner Yan, however, she is still considered the best chance of China retaining the Olympic women’s doubles gold medal won by Sun Tiantian and Li Ting in Athens.

Zheng and Yan also had their first taste of the Olympics in Athens, but were sent packing in the quarterfinals.

China’s hopes of success in Beijing had seemed real after the breakthrough of Chinese women largely inspired by Zheng in 2006, but a fragile left ankle ruled Zheng out for much of last season.

Zheng’s long-time injury in the left ankle aggravated in the French Open in 2007 when she suffered both early exits from the singles and doubles events.

Since then, Zheng was rested for more than half a year.

Back on court early this year, Zheng was dumped out of top 100 in the world rankings, but her all-court running seemed restored while her baseline work looked even more aggressive than before.

Zheng, ranked 60, will play both in singles and doubles. In singles, she will be joined by former world top 20 player Li Na, Yan and Peng Shuai, the first time China clinched all four entries in the event since the sport came back to the Olympic family in 1988.

In women’s doubles, Peng and Olympic champion Sun Tiantian also qualified for the 32-team line-up.

“I had never thought I could do this well (at Wimbledon),” said Zheng after coming back to Beijing. “Tactics is important in the matches, but sometimes when you play against strong opponents, confidence may hold the key to victory.”

“It is tough to make the last four at Wimbledon. The success gave me a lot more confidence at the Beijing Games.”

With none of her family playing tennis, Zheng got into tennis as a child only by accident.

“When I was a child, I was very sporty and lively and my parents wanted me to have more practice, to be healthy,” she told the Wimbledon’s official website.

“At that time there were not many people who knew the tennis game in China, but as soon as I started to play I fell in love with it.”

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