When one is 23 years old, trains five hours a day – seven days a week, has won two world and two European championships, it is no surprise that an Olympic gold-medal must be on the top of one’s wish list. Especially considering how focused Carolina Marin has been so far during the Olympic Games.
Today it was her first Olympic semi-final, but that did not seem to affect the Spaniard at all, even though it was up against Li Xuerui of China seeded 3.
Showing a speed and pace, never really seen on a Women’s singles’ court, Marin started well and performed supremely, just like she has done in the tournament so far. She quickly took the lead to 3/0, and after Li catched up on her, she started to make more distance and got ahead 9/3.
Dressed in Spanish red from top to toe, (even nail polish), she got a break with a 4 point-lead to 11/7.
Li Xuerui did not give in and very sharp shuttles at the net gave her easy points and she started to haul in on the Spaniard.
After four points in a row to Li, Marin turned it around and took four in a row for herself. And from there she takes the set home without further ado: 21/14.
In the second set, a quick 3/0-lead to Li, the Spaniard turned into equalization. Two long rallies where Marin reaches and caches every shuttle, really making the Chinese run all over the court. This success gets replaced by adversity, where Marin makes three errors in a row - Now Li was in the lead: 6/7. The Chinese seemed to be feeling more comfortable, and her game worked in her favor for the first time in the match. And she, furthermore, increased her lead by two points
Li succeeds to keep Marin on the back court, on her heels, and close net rolls keeps the match going her way. Marin fights back and almost caches up with Li for a 9/11 mid-set score.
At 11/14 it seemed like Marin was tired, and for Li the situation brightened a bit. Then out of nowhere, Marin strikes, and got four points in a row, turning the score around, furthermore, to a 16/15-lead.
At 18/16, Li twisted her knee and fell to the ground. If she was unable to get up was unclear, but she signaled for a physician or doctor. He then bandaged her knee, so she could continue the match. She got up and started to play, but it was soon clear that she was not at 100 per cent.
And then Marin could secure a spot in the final, and on one of the top-two placements on the Olympic podium; by winning 21/16.
Marin will face P.V. Sindhu of India, in the Women’s singles final tomorrow, August 19, 3PM BST-4PM CEST-5PM MSK.