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Chinese thoughts turn to Olympics after Fed Cup loss (AFP)

  • 28.04.2008
BEIJING, April 28, 2008 (AFP)
China were Monday licking their wounds after a pummelling at the hands of five-time hampions Spain but their Fed Cup adventure has given players vital experience ahead of the Olympics.
An enthusiastic home crowd left disappointed as Spain romped to a 4-1 victory in the semi-final, setting up a title decider with defending champions Russia.
China came into the Beijing tie with high hopes of being the first Asian team to reach the Fed Cup final but three defeats out of three put the match beyond their reach.
Head coach Jiang Hongwei told AFP he was disappointed by China's display in their first Fed Cup semi-final and said injuries had taken their toll.
But he vowed the players would strive to give home fans something to cheer about at the Beijing Games in August.
"We will try our best to get a medal but it is a very high-level competition so it is hard to say," he told AFP.
He said the players would benefit from the experience of playing at home, with extra support and added pressure.
"If you play at home you have many more supporters and it's a pity we couldn't do better but we were missing important players. Otherwise we would have had a chance," he added.
China were without the injured Li Na, Asia's top player, for the Fed Cup clash and were also unable to field their first-choice doubles pairing of Zheng Jie and Yan Zi.
In 2006, Zheng and Yan, who are perhaps China's best hope for an Olympic tennis medal, became the nation's first Grand Slam champions, winning both the Australian Open and Wimbledon doubles titles.
China's tennis bosses will be hoping the Beijing Games prove as big a boost to the sport in the country as the Athens Olympics in 2004, where Sun Tiantian and Li Ting became overnight superstars after taking gold in the doubles.
The result, which not only shocked the tennis world but also the public here, helped spark a tennis boom with an estimated three million Chinese now playing regularly.
Peng Shuai, who lost all three of her matches including the doubles with Sun Tiantian, also said the high-pressure clash could prove a valuable lesson.
"It's good to have a lot of people supporting you but it puts more pressure on you," she said.
Zheng, who went into the match ranked 206, claimed China's only win of the weekend and said it was important for the team to have progressed so far.
"For the Chinese team, it's really important but it's also important for Asia for us to reach a semi-final. It's a pity we lost but we tried our best and hope we can do better next year," she said.
"Yesterday and today there were so many people cheering the team on. I think the environment is very similar to the Olympic Games so that's a good sign for the Chinese team," she added.
China were unable to make the most of the advantage of playing on the fast hard courts of the indoor International Tennis Centre against a Spanish side which prefers clay.
But they will take great heart from their Fed Cup run, which included a first-round win in February over two-times champions France.
China, who reached the World Group for the first time last year, were the first Asian nation to make the last four since Japan in 1996.