BUDAPEST - Maharu Yoshimura and Kasumi Ishikawa failed to defend their mixed doubles title, falling to China’s Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen 4-1 in Friday’s final at the World Table Tennis Championships.
A year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, where mixed doubles will make its debut in the Olympic table tennis competition, Xu and Lin — defending 2017 world champions in men’s and women’s doubles, respectively — easily outclassed the Japanese pair.
Yoshimura and Ishikawa, winners in 2017, were also runners-up in 2015, when Xu partnered with South Korea’s Yang Ha-eun to win the championship.
After dropping the first two games 11-5 and 11-8, Yoshimura and Ishikawa scraped out the third game 11-9 in which they nearly blew a seven-point lead.
But Xu and Liu quickly built a 6-1 lead in the fourth game, with Ishikawa looking flustered and repeatedly missing returns.
“The mistakes in the fourth game are what killed us, and that is quite frustrating,” Ishikawa said.
Yoshimura nearly rescued the Japanese duo with three straight winners after facing game point. But another wide shot from Ishikawa gave the Chinese the fourth game 11-9.
The 11-4 fifth game went quickly with little drama until Yoshimura inserted some theatrics with a flashy behind-the-back return during the final rally.
“We played quite well, but struggled on the big points, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Yoshimura said.
Ishikawa said the pair still took solace in their accomplishment.
“You almost never see the same pair reach a final at three straight finals,” she said. “We were pretty happy about that as we went into the final, and it’s something to be proud of.”
In men’s singles, Koki Niwa battled back from a two-game deficit before losing his quarterfinal to China’s Liang Jingkun in seven games 12-10, 10-12, 11-8, 11-4, 9-11, 7-11, 11-5.
Niwa was trying to become the first Japanese man to reach a singles medal podium at the worlds in 40 years.