KUALA LUMPUR – Japan’s women were defeated 3-0 by China in the final of the World Team Table Tennis Championships on Sunday, missing out on the title they last won in 1971.
Captain Ai Fukuhara, ranked world No.4, was beaten by No. 1 Liu Shiwen 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 in the first match and fifth-ranked Kasumi Ishikawa was beaten by No. 7 Li Xiaoxia in full sets 6-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5 despite taking a two-game advantage.
Fifteen-year-old Mima Ito, ranked 12th, had to win against No.2 Ding Ning to keep her team in the tie and admirably won the first game 11-8. She lost the next three games 11-7, 11-8, 11-1 as China, backed by vociferous support throughout, claimed the title for the third time in a row and 20th overall.
“I was up first but couldn’t get the team on a roll and I’m really disappointed,” Fukuhara said. “The support for the opposition was great but that didn’t disrupt me as I was concentrated.”
Ishikawa came closest to handing her team the win and rued the missed opportunity after going two up.
“I led in the third game and I wanted to finish off then,” she said. “There were some good plays but I wanted to win. I was given some things to work on ahead of the Rio Olympics.”
Ito may have been defeated but there were plenty of positives for the youngster, and Fukuhara was pleased with the team’s overall performance in the tournament.
“I couldn’t win a game last time (against Ding) but I showed my strong points this time around. It has been a really good experience and really fun,” Ito said.
Fukuhara said, “It’s a silver we all won together. I’m really happy and proud of it. I’m glad I was part of this team.”