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Japan cruises into women’s table tennis quarters

Kyodo

Japan’s women’s medal quest in the London Olympic table tennis team competition began on a strong note Friday as they advanced to the quarterfinals with a comfortable first-round win over the United States.

Ai Fukuhara prevailed in the opening singles match 11-4, 11-7, 11-7 over Ariel Hsing and went on to win the doubles match with partner Kasumi Ishikawa, leading the team to a 3-0 victory over the U.S. team.

“I tried not to let my defeat in the singles event linger,” said Fukuhara, referring to her loss to world No. 1 Ding Ning in the women’s singles quarterfinals earlier in the week.

“As I was in the opening singles match (for the team), I fought it thinking that the tide would turn for the worse if I lose,” Fukuhara said.

After Sayaka Hirano downed Lily Zhang 11-9, 11-5, 11-3 to make it 2-0 for Japan, Fukuhara and Ishikawa needed just 14 minutes to seal victory with an 11-7, 11-7, 11-1 win over Zhang and Erica Wu.

“I played thinking that I want to avenge (the individual result) in the team competition, without being too depressed about missing a medal in the individual event,” Ishikawa said.

The 19-year-old became the first Japanese to reach the semifinals of a table tennis singles event before settling for fourth after falling to Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in the bronze-medal match.

Japan missed out on a medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 after a defeat to South Korea in the bronze-medal match.