Hometown favorite Ai Fukuhara crashed out of the table tennis Women’s World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday, throwing away a three-game lead to lose to low-ranked German opponent Petrissa Solja, 4-3.
The world No. 4 Fukuhara looked like she would breeze through after going up 3-0 over the world No. 26 Solja, but her opponent snuck a 14-12 fourth-game win before watching Fukuhara implode as she lost the final three games 11-5, 11-8, 11-6, to the shock of her hometown fans.
That left Japan’s hopes on the racket of Kasumi Ishikawa. The Yamaguchi native saved the host nation’s blushes by beating tour veteran Liu Jia from Austria 4-2 (11-8, 6-11, 5-11, 17-15, 11-3, 11-7) to reach the semifinals, where she will play either China’s Zhu Yuling or the Netherlands’ Li Jiao.
The tournament almost saw one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history in morning play when Chinese two-seed Zhu went three games down to Hungary’s world No. 31 Georgina Pota in the round of 16. Pota got off to a hot start, but could not snatch the one match-winning game she needed, eventually losing 4-3.
In Fukuhara’s first match of the tournament earlier on Saturday she beat Egypt’s African champion Dina Meshref 4-1 (11-4, 6-11, 11-3, 15-13, 11-6). It brought to an end Meshref’s stellar run that saw her become the first African player to reach the main draw of the Women’s World Cup.
Ishikawa beat Germany’s Irene Ivancan in her first match of the tournament, overcoming the world No. 42 easily 4-0 (11-4, 11-6, 11-7, 11-3).
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