by James Francis
The future looks bright for Japan’s rising table tennis stars after the nation collected the girls’ singles, girls’ doubles and mixed doubles titles on Sunday 1st December at the NSDF 2019 World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Korat, Thailand.
Never before had Japan lifted any of the above titles, as they enjoyed their most successful day ever at the annual event, which has been running since 2003.
Miyu Nagasaki won the girls’ singles crown before partnering Miyuu Kihara to girls’ doubles success; earlier in the day Kihara had secured the mixed doubles title in partnership with Yukiya Uda.
The efforts of the Japanese teenagers rather overshadowed Chinese success; Xiang Peng secured the boys’ singles title; the boys’ doubles was won by Liu Yebo and Xu Yingbin, after earlier in the week China had captured both the boys’ team and girls’ team titles.
Japan run China close for world junior team titles
Signs that Japan may challenge the dominance of China became evident early on in the eight-day event in Korat; at the semi-final stage of the boys’ team event, they extended China the full five match distance, the outcome being decided by the very narrowest of margins.
In the decisive contest to determine a place in the final, Xiang Peng beat Shunsuke Togami by the minimal two-point advantage in the decisive fifth game (13-11, 13-11, 9-11, 9-11, 11-9).
A place in the final booked, selecting Xiang Peng alongside Xu Yingbin and Liu Yebo, a 3-0 win was recorded in emphatic style against the Chinese Taipei trio comprising Feng Yi-Hsin, Tai Ming-Wei and Huang Yan-Cheng to seal the title.
Similarly, in the girls’ team final, the Japanese trio of Miyu Nagasaki, Kyoka Idesawa and Miyuu Kihara gave the Chinese combination of Shi Xunyao, Kuai Man and Chen Yi more than food for thought. A 3-1 win was the verdict in favour of China, the one win for Japan being recorded in the third match of the fixture when Kihara beat Chen Yi (11-3, 9-11, 11-3, 11-7).
However, could the outcome have been so different? In the opening match of the engagement, Shi Xunyao, the 2016 world junior champion, had to recover from a two games to nil deficit and the precipice of defeat to overcome Nagasaki (11-13, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8).
“Our win was mainly due to great teamwork. It was a group effort. Our goal is always to get the gold medal, but you can’t keep thinking that it will definitely happen. We still need to give our best for every point and show our full potential.” – Shi Xunyao
Earlier at the semi-final stage, fielding the same three players, China had recorded a 3-1 win against the DPR Korea trio formed by Kim Kum Yong, Pyon Song Gyong and Kim Un Song; bronze the end result for DRP Korea, their first ever medal at a World Junior Championships.
Nagasaki leads Japanese charge
Following the disappointment of defeat in the team event, Miyu Nagasaki ended her week in Thailand on the highest note possible. The no.4 seed, at the semi-final stage of the girls’ singles event she beat China’s Wu Yangchen, the top seed (10-12, 11-1, 13-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7) to reserve her place in the final where she overcame 14 year old compatriot Haruna Ojio (11-4, 11-7, 11-5, 8-11, 5-11, 11-7).
Thus she added to her Asian junior girls’ singles title won earlier in the year in September in Ulaanbaatar; more significantly she ended the run of Chinese success; in all previous 16 editions of the World Junior Championships, the girls’ singles event had been won by China.
“I feel like I have won a World Tour title. I’m just very happy that I have managed to win here. I would like to thank my coaches and family, who have supported me.” – Miyu Nagasaki
A first for Japan, it was the same in both the girls’ doubles and mixed doubles; in both events overcoming Chinese opponents in the final. In the former, Kihara and Nagasaki accounted for Kuai Man and Shi Xunyao (11-5, 11-6, 12-10); in the latter Yukiya Uda and Kihara overcame Xu Yingbin and Shi Xunyao (11-9, 11-1, 11-7).
“At last year’s World Junior Championships in Australia, China won every single event. I was very upset. I told myself I did not want to lose anymore, so I trained very, very hard. We won the women’s doubles event at the Austrian Open, so we can participate at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. Now we want to win there together.” – Miyuu Kihara
China’s boys overcome European challengers
It was not the best of reading for China, very much Xiang Peng alongside Liu Yebo and Xu Yingbin saved the blushes.
Xiang Peng justified his top seeded position to win the boys’ singles title; at the semi-final stage, once again he beat Shunsuke Togami (14-12, 12-10, 13-11, 10-12, 11-9), before overcoming Sweden’s Truls Möregard (12-10, 11-3, 11-8, 11-5). A runners up spot for Möregard and a case of déjà vu; he had finished the silver medallist two years earlier in 2017 in Riva del Garda.
Impressive from Xiang Peng, his fine work was followed up by compatriots Liu Yebo and Xu Yingbin. After accounting for Singapore’s Josh Chua Shao Han and Pang Yew En Koen (11-8, 8-11, 13-11, 11-8), they beat Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko and Artem Tikhonov in straight games (11-3, 11-6, 11-2) to reserve the top step of the boys’ doubles podium. Bronze for Singapore; their first ever medal at a World Junior Table Tennis Championships.
A first for Singapore and more than one first for Japan have left China with plenty to ponder.