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Table Tennis: Mima Ito, 14, becomes Tour’s youngest singles champ

Mima Ito, 14, became the ITTF World Tour’s youngest-ever singles champion at the German Open. Photos: ITTF.

Mima Ito, 14, became the ITTF World Tour’s youngest-ever singles champion at the German Open. Photos: ITTF.

March 23, 2015: Mima Ito became the youngest-ever women’s singles champion on the ITTF World Tour when the 14-year-old Japanese prodigy won the German Open in Bremen on Sunday.

 

Ito was 14 years and 152 days old when she twice came from behind to beat local hero Petrissa Solja 4-2 (9-11, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7, 14-12, 12-10) in a dramatic final.

 

At last year’s German Open, Ito also made history when she became the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour title by winning the women’s doubles title with compatriot Miu Hirano, also then 13.

 

However, this time she was on her own as she shocked World No. 4 Feng Tianwei of Singapore in the semi-finals on her way to a first World Tour title, despite only being ranked World No. 38.

 

“I am shocked and ecstatic to win such a big title at my age,” said Ito, who quickly switched from modest to ambitious. “This is just the beginning for me. I now need to continue playing at this high level and win many more titles.

 

“I now want to qualify for the Japanese team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and do well. This will then give me the experience I need to realise my dream of gold in the singles and team event at my home Olympics at Tokyo 2020.”

 

Ito beat German star Petrissa Solja (left), who won the women’s doubles and U-21 titles in Bremen.

Ito beat German star Petrissa Solja (left), who won the women’s doubles and U-21 titles in Bremen.

Solja also made history as the first player to feature in all three finals at an ITTF World Tour event. On her way to the singles final, the German won 14 straight matches, as she won the women’s doubles and Under-21 titles.

 

The World No. 45 teamed up with compatriot Shan Xiaona to defeat Hong Kong’s of Doo Hoi-kem and Lee Ho-ching 3-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-9) in the doubles final and defeated Hina Hayata, Ito’s compatriot, 3-0 (11-9, 11-1, 11-5) to win the Under-21 title.

 

While Ito won her first World Tour event, China’s Ma Long won his 19th in the men’s singles by defeating teammate Zhang Jike 4-3 (11-9, 7-11, 8-11, 14-16, 11-6, 14-12, 11-8) in a gripping showdown between two of the game’s stars.

 

The 26-year-old World No. 1 had to come back from 3-1 down and save a match point before avenging his defeat by the Olympic Champion in last year’s Liebherr Men’s World Cup in Germany.

 

“It was an extremely close match, with every single point being a big fight,” Ma said after his third German Open victory.

 

“The last time I played him in Germany I lost, which was very disappointing, so I am happy that we are now 1-1 and this time I can go home happy.”

 

Ma said the victory was also a huge confidence boost ahead of the Qoros World Championships in Suzhou, which starts on April 26.

 

“This victory gives me massive confidence for the upcoming World Championships,” Ma said. “Zhang will be one of my biggest rivals there, so knowing I can beat him gives me great belief that I can win my first ever World Championships singles title.”

 

Germany picked up their third title for the event in the men’s doubles as Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska defeated Russians Kirill Skachkov and Alexey Smirnov 3-1 (11-6, 12-10, 4-11, 11-8).

 

The men’s Under-21 final was an all-Korean affair, with Kim Dong-hyun defeating close friend Kim Min-hyeok 3-0 (11-6, 14-12, 11-7).

 

The World Tour’s next event is Spanish Open, which begins on Wednesday.

 

Source: ITTF (www.ittf.com); Editing by SportAsia

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