PARIS – Teenager Ai Fukuhara, the youngest-ever member of the Japanese national team, paired with Seiya Kishikawa to beat Belgium’s Damien Delobbe and Karen Opdencamp 3-1 and advance to the final round of the mixed doubles competition on Monday, the first day of the World Table Tennis Championships.
The Japanese pair, who earlier thrashed Iceland’s Guomundur Stethensen and Halldora Olafs 3-0, took the first two sets 11-3, 11-7 at the Paris-Bercy Hall.
The 14-year-old Fukuhara and 15-year-old Kishikawa dropped the next set 11-5, but the young pair held firm to take the fourth set 11-6 to wrap up the victory.
Trailing 5-2 in the fourth set, the child prodigies racked up eight straight points to get into their rhythm.
“My condition was so-so and I’m satisfied with my performance today. I’ll take one match at a time and show everything in my arsenal,” said Fukuhara, who made a victory-clinching forehand smash in the fourth set.
Fukuhara, popularly known as “Ai-chan,” has also been entered in the women’s singles and doubles in the championships, which last through Sunday.
She became the youngest-ever player to claim a national title in women’s doubles at the national championships last December.
In other opening-day competitions, the Japanese pair of Ryusuke Sakamoto and Sayaka Hirano downed Kazakstan’s Ermek Beknazarov and Marina Kapustina 3-1 in another third-round mixed-doubles competition to move into the final round. The Japanese pair got a bye in the second round.
In one of the men’s doubles preliminaries, the Japanese pair of Kishikawa and Sakamoto defeated Yemen’s Hani al-Hammadi and Yaser al-Sabahi 3-0.
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