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Japanese teenager Ai Fukuhara came from two sets down to beat Australia’s Miao Miao 4-3 and advance to the third round of the women’s table tennis singles at the Athens Games on Sunday.

The 15-year-old Fukuhara, the youngest woman to appear in the table tennis competition at the Athens Olympics, prevailed 5-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9 after a nervous start at Galatsi Olympic Hall.

“I feel like I’ve just used up a week’s worth of energy,” said Fukuhara, admitting that stage fright had got the better of her at the start of the match.

News photoKoji Matsushita watches the ball during his first-round match with Trevor Brown of Australia in men’s singles table tennis. Matsushita won 11-4, 11-6, 11-9, 11-3.

“I was really tense in the first set and my hand holding the ball was trembling and my teeth were chattering too,” said Fukuhara.

In badminton, Kaori Mori advanced to the second round after a straight-sets win over Anu Weckstrom of Finland.

But Kanako Yonekura, a quarterfinalist at last year’s world championships, was eliminated by seventh-seeded Dane Camilla Martin in straight sets in the women’s singles first round.

Compatriot Miho Tanaka also crashed out of the tournament with a first-round defeat.

In fencing, high school student Masashi Nagara won in his Olympic debut before being knocked out in the second round in the men’s individual sabre, while in cycling Yasutaka Tashiro could only manage a 57th-place finish for the best showing among Japanese in the men’s road race.

Sugiyama advances

ATHENS (Kyodo) Japanese tennis ace Ai Sugiyama began her quest for a first Olympic medal by coming from a set down to beat China’s Zheng Jie in the first round of the women’s singles at the Athens Games on Sunday.

Eighth-seeded Sugiyama struggled to find her rhythm early on and dropped the first set before recovering to beat her unseeded opponent 4-6, 6-3, 8-6 in 2 hours, 34 minutes in the first match on Court One at Olympic Tennis Center.

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