by Wade Townsend
Ai Fukuhara defeated Myong Sun Ri 4-0 in their fourth round encounter in what could be described as a revenge match for Japan.
Fukuhara is her nation’s last hope in the women’s singles after Kasumi Ishikawa crashed out in the third round against DPR Korean defender Kim Song I.
Japan was once again facing a chopper from DPR Korea, but Fukuhara fans can let out a collective sigh of relief. History didn’t repeat.
The queen of Japanese table tennis was in devastating form and went ahead early, taking the first 11-5.
Ri looked to get a game on the board at 10-10 in the second and threw everything she had at the number six seed. What followed was perhaps one of the points of the tournament as Ri found herself on her knees, struggling to slide the ball back in to play. But it wasn’t enough as Fukuhara won the point to cheers from the crowd clearly loving the spectacle.
“It was a big turning point when I was 10-10 in the second game. It was a big advantage for me when I got 12-10,” reflected Fukuhara.
With the lead, she took full control of the match, winning the third game 11-1.
A timeout in the fourth proved to be of little use for Ri as Fukuhara sealed the game and match 11-7.
“I trained very hard in these months just for the Olympic Games here in Rio. I’m now sure my practicing is paying off.”
Fukuhara now moves on to the quarterfinals to face number two seed and London 2012 bronze medallist Feng Tianwei of Singapore.