Japanese singles medal favourite Ito fired up after wins

Sizzling debut: Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani of Japan react during their match against Xu Xin-Liu Shiwen of China on Monday. — Reuters

TOKYO: Japanese medal favourite Mima Ito outplayed her Portuguese rival to move into the last-16 of the Olympic women’s singles competition.

The world number two, who together with her male compatriot Jun Mizutani brought Japan its first ever gold in the sport after an epic victory against China on Monday night in the mixed doubles, beat Portugal’s Yu Fu 4-1.

“It’s not that I got a proper rest last night, but I’ve completely switched my mind to focus on the singles... I’m feeling really confident,” said Ito.

Ito is a central figure in Japan’s table tennis squad at the Tokyo Games, as she holds winning records against some Chinese paddlers she will likely face in the upcoming rounds.

The 20-year-old will face world number 41 Thai paddler Suthasini Sawettabut later in the day.

China’s top paddlers also went all-in to win after a shocking night which ended with their team mates Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin suffering a surprise defeat.

World number one and former Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics champion Fan Zhendong, 24, marked his Olympic debut with a 4-0 victory over French paddler Emmanuel Lebesson.

“Competition is competition. I don’t think too much,” said Fan, brushing off pressure after China lost to Japan in the mixed doubles.

Ma Long, 32, Rio Olympics champion secured his spot in the last-16 after a 4-1 win against India’s Kamal Achanta.

Joining them in the next round is Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi, currently ranked No. 37 in the men’s singles, who beat Quadri Aruna, world number 21 and first African quarter-finalist at the 2016 Rio Games. — Reuters

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