by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
An increasingly formidable partnership, winners on the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour in the Czech Republic and Sweden, notably in the latter beating China’s Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling in the final, the runners up earlier in the year at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships; Hina Hayata and Mima Ito gave Japan the ideal start.
They beat Cha Hyon Sim and Kim Nam Hae in straight games, pertinently winning six points in row, recovering from a 6-10 deficit to secure victory (11-3, 11-8, 12-10).
Success for Hina Hayata and Mima Ito was followed with success for Kasumi Ishikawa, a contest in which there was an air of revenge. In the third round of the Women’s Singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Kasumi Ishikawa had been beaten by Kim Song I in seven games, Kim Song I progressed to win the bronze medal.
In London, in the intervening period, Kasumi Ishikawa had clearly improved her skills against the defensive art; directing her top spin play consistently across the diagonal towards the backhand of Kim Song I, the side of the racket with long pimples, calm and totally focused, Kasumi Ishikawa recorded a straight games win (11-7, 11-8, 11-7).
Notably in the third game, Kim Song I led 7-6, she elected for “Time Out”, returned, decided attack was the best form of defence but seemingly lost concentration and did not win another point.
“Today was very different to when I lost in Rio de Janeiro; I controlled the play better today. At the “Time Out” in the third game, my coach Mika Baba told me to keep calm and have confidence in myself.” Kasumi Ishikawa
Japan two-nil ahead, Hina Hayata concluded matters by beating Cha Hyo Sim, a contest in which there were some nervous moments for Japan. Matters level at one game apiece; in the third Cha Hyo Sim led 6-3; Mika Baba, the Japanese national coach on duty called “Time Out”.
It proved a wise move; Hina Hayata won the next four points. Immediately Kim Jin Myong, the DPR Korea coach, called for the break, Cha Hyo Sim went ahead 9-7 but was unable to capitalise. The next four points went to Hina Hayata. Equally the fourth game was a tense affair and again Hina Hayata succeeded by the minimal two point margin (11-8, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9).
“It is the first time this team has played together in this competition. Everything is new and we just try our best in all the matches. We take one point at a time. The team spirit in the team has been awesome and our confidence is growing with each match. We knew that North Korea are very strong and we laid out our strategy before the match. We discussed before the match possible tactics; in the “Time Out” calls, Mika Baba, our coach, told me to be aware of Cha Hyo Sim’s strong backhand.” Hina Hayata
It is the third time that Japan has reached the Women’s final at the ITTF Team World Cup; they were the runners up in 2011 in Magdeburg and in 2013 in Guangzhou when on both occasions Kasumi Ishikawa teamed with Ai Fukuhara and Sayaka Hirano.