22 Dec 2019

All smiles from start to finish, a breath of fresh air circulated through the Zhengzhou Olympic Sports Centre on the concluding day of play, Sunday 15th December, at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

Japan’s 15 year old Miyuu Kihara and, a mere two years her senior, had won the women’s doubles title.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

The success brought to an end a quite incredible year for the teenagers both together and apart; players who underline and endorse the reason why we play sport. It’s fun; their attitude, their approach, their personalities, sheer delight. They play in a relaxed manner; that is no doubt a major reason why this year they did so well.

In women’s doubles events on the ITTF World Tour, most creditably they reached the semi-final stage in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia; in addition they were the runners up in Germany, prior to clinching the title in Austria.

Notably, the successes all came in the last seven months of the year starting in June; previously in May, they had won at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments in Croatia and Slovenia.

Furthermore, in early September they secured the junior girls’ doubles title at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in Ulaanbaator, before in December being crowned World Junior champions in Korat.

Oustanding but was not the pinnacle of the year when, prior to overcoming Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun in the final in Zhengzhou, in the penultimate round they beat China’s Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, the winners at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships earlier in the year?

Almost departure at qualification stage

Equally, apart they secured titles. Miyuu Kihara won the women’s singles event at the ITTF Challenge Croatia Open. Miyu Nagasaki secured the under 21 women’s singles title at the ITTF Challenge Slovenia Open, as well as later being crowned both Asian and World Junior champion.

Success at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships but just as the win recorded in Zhengzhou against the World champions was unique, so was the manner in which Miyu Nagasaki succeeded in Ulaanbaator.

Very nearly she did not progress beyond the initial qualification phase, had that stage been knock-out as opposed to group play, Miyu Nagasaki would not have advanced to the main draw.

In fact with the benefit of hindsight she was one point away from farewell. All played in the group phase but only first place meant progress to the knock-out stage. In the opening match China’s Kuai Man, the no.9 seed and favourite for first place, experienced a surprise four games defeat at the hands of DPR Korea’s Pak Su Gyong (12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7).

Enter Miyu Nagasaki, she duly accounted for Pak Su Gyong in straight games (11-1, 11-6, 11-7); facing Kuai Man, Miyu Nagasaki needed just one game to secure first place. She succeeded, she won that one game, the second, one in which she saved games points; a four games reverse was the outcome (11-4, 14-16, 11-9, 11-6).

She lost her concluding match in the group stage but progressed to win the title; that must be a first!

Facing China

Defeat at the hands of Kuai Man, in the final of the girls’ team event against China, Miyu Nagasaki experienced defeat at the hands of Shi Xunyao. Otherwise, she very much showed her expertise against Chinese adversaries.

Most creditably on the ITTF World Tour in both Japan and in Sweden, she beat Zhu Yuling; in Ulanbaator, she ousted Huang Yingqi. In Korat at the NSDF World Junior Championships she overcame both Chen Yi and Wu Yangchen en route to gold; the former Miyuu Kihara had beaten in 3-1 defeat in the girls’ team final in Korat.

Worthy wins but despite China winning the junior girls’ team titles in both Ulaanbaator and Korat; the line-up in the junior girls’ singles semi-finals, suggests that situation may come to an end in 2020?

Unexpected line-up

Contrary to expectations, in both tournaments the only Chinese player to reach the penultimate round of the junior girls’ singles event was the pen-holder Wu Yangchen. In addition to Miyu Nagasaki, in Ulaanbaator, colleagues Kyoka Idesawa and Haruna Ojio completed the line-up; in Korat it was once again Haruna Ojio, the different name being DPK Korea’s Kim Un Song

Notably on both occasions it was a semi-final exit for Wu Yangchen, as Japan provided the finalists. In Ulaanbaator, Wu Yangchen was soundly beaten by Kyoka Idesawa, in Korat by Miyu Nagasaki.

A fine effort by 17 year old Kyoka Idesawa but she was upstaged by colleague Haruna Ojio; only 14 years old, in both Ulaanbaator and Korat, her defensive skills had mesmerised Shi Xunyao, the 2016 World junior champion and the player who has occupied top spot on the under girls’ rankings from August 2018 until relinquishing the illustrious position earlier this year in September.

In fact it was only Miyu Nagasaki who was able to combat the skills of Haruna Ojio; she prevailed in the semi-final in Ulaabaator, in the final in Korat.


Ten years ago a quite formidable group of Japanese female players emerged; at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Kasumi Ishikawa, Sayaka Hirano and Ai Fukuhara secured women’s team silver, the first ever medal for Japan at the prestigious quadrennial multi-sport gathering.

Since then, Mima Ito, Miu Hirano and Hina Hayata have appeared on the scene; now note the names Miyu Nagasaki, Miyuu Kihara, Kyoka Idesawa and Haruna Ojio.

Each group is surely benefitting from the one before? Can the latest class progress to even greater heights than their predecessors. In 2019 there was plenty of evidence.

General News Miyu Nagasaki Miuu Kihara