Ito squanders two-game lead against Wang in Japan Open quarterfinals defeat

Kyodo

Sixteen-year-old Mima Ito relinquished a 2-0 lead against 2014 and 2015 world junior champion Wang Manyu, bowing out of the Japan Open in the women’s singles quarterfinals on Saturday.

Ito made a bright start, but threw away chances to sway the match and with it the chance to beat 18-year-old Wang, who defeated third seed Kasumi Ishikawa a day earlier in the first round and someone who Ito believes will become “a beast” in the years ahead.

“This one is tough to swallow after having come this far,” Ito said. “She’s someone who has a really bright future. If I don’t beat her now, I won’t have a shot in the future so I wanted to win. But I’m sure I’ll have another chance.”

Ito attacked early and left Wang chasing shadows in the first game. Wang had a brief lead in the second, but Ito roared back to stretch the lead behind her unreturnable top-spun backhand at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

The match began to feature long rallies and Ito had trouble placing her forehand in the third game. She won seven straight points, but dropped the game as well as the next one despite leading 8-5, both after deuce.

Ito had opportunities in the fifth game, but repeatedly smashed her shots into the net that left her trailing for the first time. She failed to stop the slide in what turned out to be the sixth and final game.

“She was creative, changed her serves, made it difficult for me to return and shook me around side to side,” said Ito, who won the team bronze at the Rio Games last summer.

“I didn’t play well in some matches but persevered to win them. Next time, I want to win outright.”

Asian champ Miu Hirano, who was third at the worlds last month in Germany, was taken to seven games against a resilient Jeon Ji-hee but downed the South Korean to book her place in the last eight.

The fifth-seeded Hirano dropped the first game 15-13 before seemingly finding a way through Jeon’s fast counter to lead 2-1. But the 12th seed kept coming back to twice restore parity before Hirano sealed it.

“I realized she was looking to counter my forehands and I was made to think,” Hirano said. “I played her in the doubles before and lost so I knew she was very strong. I prepared as well as I could and am glad to get the win.”

Nine-time defending national champion Jun Mizutani reached the last eight in the men’s singles after rallying to win 4-1 against 15th seed Kristian Karlsson of Sweden.

Rio bronze medalist Mizutani lost four straight points from 10-8 to give away the opening game, but came out on top after some spectacular rallies to take the next four games.

“I made silly mistakes (in the first game) but switched my mind quickly, there was still room to relax,” Mizutani said. “I’d like to give more consistency to my play as I was making mistakes when he narrowed my lead.”

Koki Niwa took the third game but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by world No. 1 Ma Long of China.

“I had good serves and returns and was getting the upper hand but I couldn’t win points when it came to rallies,” said Niwa, who led 10-8 in the second game but lost the next four points and then the game.

“I thought I was a match for the first three games, but he moved his feet quickly in the fourth and fifth as he took it up a notch. But it was good to be able to play Ma at full strength.”

In the men’s doubles, the top-ranked pair of Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima, who won the bronze at the worlds, suffered a 3-1 defeat to countrymen and world silver medalists Maharu Yoshimura and Niwa.

In the women’s doubles, Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato bowed out in the semifinals after losing 3-2 against China’s Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha.