LI Jiao booked her ticket for RioPhoto: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Li Jiao beat LI Jie to clinch the title in Women’s Singles Event in Baku
In the first ever all-Dutch final at the major events Li Jiao beat LI Jie to clinch the gold medal at the European Games in Baku. In addition LI Jiao booked her place for the Olympic Games in Rio 2106. It is going to be her third appearance at the Olympics after Beijing 2008 and London 2012. LI Jie won silver, whilst HU Melek of Turkey won bronze. Netherlands concluded their journey to Baku with total of three medals; beside gold and silver in singles, they won silver in Team’s Event.
In the final duel of the Women’s Singles Event experienced 42-years old LI Jiao dominated 4:0 (13:11, 11:5, 12:10, 11:5).
“Our aim was to secure good result here and we had very strong preparations. In past three weeks, I had hard trainings and I dedicated my full time to be ready for the challenge in Baku,” explained LI Jiao who also works as a coach of the men’s team. That role affected her play and results, so last month she was completely dedicated only to her game.
The improvement comparing to the performance at the World Championships in China was drastic.
“I preformed at my best level. I feel like I am 18 again. I had a little bit shaky start in Baku. It was difficult to overcame Yana NOSKOVA at the beginning, but latter everything was easer. “
On her way to the gold LI Jiao also overcame no. 2 seed LIU Jia of Austria and no. 7 seed Petrissa SOLJA of Germany.
“The match against LI Jie was mentally strong. We knew each other for 16 years, but I had to think about it like it is just another match.”
LI Jie also admitted it was mentally difficult.
“At the Dutch championships we met each other dozen time. I never managed to beat her before,” said LI Jie.
Jie’s way to the final was equally impressive. She overcame no. one seed HAN Ying of Germany. LI was fantastic at the World Championships in China earlier this year when she won the medal with LI Qian in doubles, and it seams that her game improved even further.
“I never played against HAN. I was not confident before that game. It was very difficult match.”
In the match for the bronze no. 8 seed Turkey’s HU Melek beat the player who made the biggest upset at the Event, Slovakia’s Eva ODOROVA 4:1 (12:10, 12:10, 11:8, 11:13, 11:7). After two close games, HU settled in more safe rhythm, but ODOROVA did not want to give up easily.
“We do not know each other. I have never played against ODOROVA. I got few tips from the coaches and the players before the match but there is a big difference when you actually play against someone. It took me two games to read her game. In third, I felt little bit relieved. ODOROVA changed her tactic in fourth game. I saved two game points and leveled to 10:10, and then I had a match ball. I thought it is the end, but I did not put enough of power in my stroke, just blocked and it opened the door for ODOROVA. She seized the opportunity and won that set. I am happy that I managed to seal the match after, in the next game,” said HU.
HU admitted the most difficult part of the tournament was the great number of the players with defensive style of play.
"I am not good against them, I do not have enough power. Yesterday I played two matches against LI Qian and Tetyana BILENKO, and I injured my shoulder. I made many forehand mistakes earlier today in semis against LI Jiao, which is why I lost.."