14 Apr 2019

Winners in 2017 in Düsseldorf, when overcoming Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An and Cheng I-Ching in the final, two years earlier the runners up in Suzhou, when beaten by the combination of China’s Xu Xin and Korea Republic’s Yang Haeun; Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura and Kasumi Ishikawa defend their title at the forthcoming Liebherr 2019 World Championships.

Play commences in Budapest on Sunday 21st April.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Notably, in the Hungarian capital city, it is the only event in which Maharu Yoshimura competes; for Kasumi Ishikawa, she is also on women’s singles duty and is very much the senior player.

Now 26 years old, she lines up alongside 21 years of age Hitomi Sato and 18 years old Mima Ito in addition to Miu Hirano and Miyu Kato, players who share the same birthday; Sunday 14th April. Today Miu Hirano celebrates her 19th birthday, for Miyu Kato she now leaves teenage years behind, she is 20 years old.

It is for Kasumi Ishikawa, a much different scenario to ten years ago when in 2009 at the H.I.S. World Championships in Yokohama, only 16 years old, in the women’s singles event, she was selected alongside Ai Fukuhara, Haruna Fukuoka, Sayaka Hirano, Yuka Ishigaki and Mikie Tasei.

A debut and it was a debut that she will never forget, nor will anyone who watched the drama unfold in the Yokohama Arena.

Eyes very much focused on Ai Fukuhara but there was disappointment, she was beaten in the second round of the women’s singles event by Germany’s Elke Schall; the crowd needed a heroine. Kasumi Ishikawa duly stepped forward. After safely progressing through the qualification stage of the women’s singles event and then accounting for Hong Kong’s Yu Kwok See, it was very much mission accomplished.

Progress to the second round was a notable achievement, one could not really have expected more. It was at that stage, she performed one of the greatest recoveries ever witnessed in the history of the World Championships.

She lost the first three games against Tie Yana, like Yu Kow See from Hong Kong; then in the fourth trailed 3-7. Incredibly, Kasumi Ishikawa recovered, she won the game by the minimal two point margin; one television camera moved courtside, then another as she won the fifth game, before in the seventh the surroundings were awash with the media.

Eventually, in seven games (8-11, 8-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5), Kasumi Ishikawa prevailed; politely she shook hands with another World Championships debutant, the umpire Ecuador’s Freddy Almendariz, now the ITTF Pan American Competition Manager, and ran to receive the congratulations of her colleagues.

Later, she accounted for Haruna Fukuoka and Singapore’s Yu Mengyu, before the champion elect China’s Zhang Yining ended matters.

It ignited what has been a most consistent series of performances by any player over a period of a decade at a World Championships; arguably other than those who have worn the shirt of China, she is the most dependable of all. Moreover, the players who have ended her journey have been, in the vast majority, those who have secured podium places.

In 2013 in Paris she was beaten in round three by DPR Korea’s Ri Myong Sun; other than that occasion, it has always been at the hands of a medallist and at the hands of China. In 2015 in Suzhou, she departed in the third round, losing to eventual silver medallist, Mu Zi; in 2011 in Eindhoven and more recently in 2017 in Düsseldorf, the player who progressed to secure gold, ended adventures.

On both occasions she lost to Ding Ning, in the fourth round in Eindhoven, two years ago in the quarter-finals; now in 2019, twice a quarter-finalist, can Kasumi Ishikawa climb one step higher, or as in previous years will it be fine performances followed by defeat, will it be mixed fortunes?

2019 World Table Tennis Championships Kasumi Ishikawa

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