Novice Sun, top-ranked Ma win Japan Open titles

Kyodo

China’s 16-year-old Sun Yingsha marked a stunning ITTF World Tour debut by winning the Japan Open women’s singles on Sunday, while world No. 1 Ma Long claimed his first title.

Sun, who won the women’s doubles title a day earlier at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, was on the cliff edge against world No. 5 Chen Meng after going 3-1 down, but beat her compatriot 4-3 following three games in an aggressive yet composed display belying her age.

“The doubles win yesterday gave me the confidence. I wasn’t sure if I could win today, but am glad I did,” said Sun, who defeated 18-year-old 2014 and 2015 world junior champ Wang Manyu in semifinals in straight games.

Wang had claimed the scalps of Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and 16-year-old Mima Ito en route to the semifinals, while Chen, who beat Germany’s Han Ying in the semis, had ousted 17-year-old Asian champ Miu Hirano a day earlier.

Sun, however, snatched the title, and her meteoric rise is sure to provide more hurdles for Japan’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold-medal aspirations at the games.

“I’ve never dreamed about winning singles or doubles before coming here. My aim was to not to lose against anyone not from China,” Sun said.

Chen, 23, said the youngster was the worthy winner.

“She has her own style, she plays at pace and is mature with her game,” Chen said. “Older players feel pressure when playing someone younger but I prepared well mentally, I managed to give what I have.”

In the men’s singles, top seed Ma worked his way past third-ranked countryman Xu Xin in the semis before downing second seed Fan Zhendong 4-1 in the final.

“I was here 10 years ago but finished second, so I’m really happy to win today,” the 28-year-old Ma said after beating Fan in a repeat of their worlds final.

“It’s clear to see for everyone that he has the ability to win at the worlds or the Olympics. I’ve been winning lately but am sure he’ll be someone who overtakes me.”

Fan, 20, said, “I wasn’t even in the national team when he was at the London Games (in 2012). He is better all-around with more experience and I have to catch up technically. I’d like to learn how to control my mental side through competing at more tournaments.”

Japanese fourth seed Jun Mizutani went out 4-1 to Fan in the semifinals. He gave the home faithful a lift by winning the fourth game, but a slow start cost him dearly and dashed hopes of a Japanese appearing in a singles final.

“I’m disappointed not to make the final,” Mizutani said. “I lost the first two games quickly and was in a really bad spell. But I was matching him in the fourth and fifth games. If I can put in a performance like that from the start, I’ll have chance next time.”

Mizutani missed two serves to drop the first game and misplaced strokes cost him another. The nine-time defending Japan champ finally found a higher gear but lost the third before he finally got the better of Fan’s backhand returns to win the fourth.

Mizutani’s strokes off both sides began passing Fan in the fifth but the Japanese star surrendered the lead at 6-5. Three straight points tied it at eight, but Fan won the next three points in ruthless fashion to clinch it.