20 Jan 2019

Interest at fever pitch, a quite staggering 5,100 spectators watched play progress in the Maruzen Intec Arena in Osaka on the penultimate day of action, Saturday 19th January, at the 2019 All Japanese National Championships.

They came to watch the latter stages of the men’s singles and women’s singles events unfold, to witness the men’s doubles and women’s doubles champions be crowned, as well as to pay tribute to a player instrumental in bringing the country Olympic glory.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Prominent names on the international scene were present and successful.

At the quarter-final stage of the women’s singles event, Mima Ito beat Minami Ando (15-13, 11-13, 11-5, 11-7, 11-6), Sakura Mori accounted for Miyu Kato 12-10, 7-11, 8-11, 11-9, 13-11, 11-5). Soon after Hina Hayata and Miyuu Kihara added their names to the semi-final line-up. Hina Hayata ended the progress of Saki Shibata (11-4, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7), Miyuu Kihara, only 15 years old, overcame the defensive skills of Hitomi Sato (5-11, 12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9).

Immediately following in the men’s singles quarter-finals were on the agenda.

Tomokazu Harimoto beat Maharu Yoshimura (11-6, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8), Yuya Oshima stifled the aspirations of Hibiki Tazoe (11-2, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4). They were followed by Jun Mizutani who defeated Koki Niwa (13-11, 11-8, 11-7, 12-10) and Yuto Kizukuri who overcame Asuka Machi (11-8, 11-5, 11-8, 11-7).

Success for Mima Ito and Hina Hayata, it was the same later in the day, as it was for Tomokazu Harimoto and Yuto Kizukuri.

Mima Ito (left) and (right) Hina Hayata retained their women’s doubles title (Photo: JTTA Public Relations)


After accounting for Hitomi Sato and Honoka Hashimoto (11-5, 11-6, 14-12), Hina Hayata and Mima Ito retained their women’s doubles title by overcoming Saki Shibata and Satsuki Odo (11-3, 11-9, 12-14, 11-6); the latter duo having accounted for Yuki Matsumoto and Yurika Taira (11-5, 12-10, 4-11, 9-11, 11-8) to reserve their place in the title decider.

Impressive performances from Mima Ito and Hina Hayata, it was very much the same for Tomokazu Harimoto and Yuto Kizukuri but in much more dramatic circumstances; they secured the title by the very minimal margin in the deciding game. Eventually, they overcame the spirited resistance of Yuki Matsuyama and Masaki Takami (9-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-5, 16-14).

Tomokazu Harimoto (left) and (right) Yuto Kizukuri the men’s doubles winners (Photo: JTTA Public Relations)


Earlier at the semi-final stage Tomokazu Harimoto and Yuto Kizukuri had beaten Jun Mizutani and Yuya Oshima (15-13, 11-9, 5-11, 12-10), Yuki Matsuyama and Masaki Takami had overcome Kaiki Matsushita and Tomoya Fujimura (9-11, 6-11, 11-9, 13-11, 11-8).

An enthralling day for the spectators and they were present to witness a special occasion. Prior to the women’s doubles final commencing, Ai Fukuhara, vital to Japan’s silver medal women’s team success at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the bronze medal four years later in Rio de Janeiro, was again centre stage. Fujishige Sadayoshi, the President of the Japan Table Tennis Association, made a special presentation in recognition of her loyalty and outstanding contribution to sport.

In October last year Ai Fukuhara announced her retirement from international play. She thanked the fans for the support received over a period of 26 years; she is expecting her second child in June.

Fujishige Sadayoshi, makes the presentation to Ai Fukuhara (Photo: JTTA Public Relations)
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