May 15 - The opening day of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Championships in Paris saw a miserable day for Japan as Olympic silver medallist Ai Fukuhara crashed at the first hurdle against qualifier Park Seong-Hye and world number 10 Jun Mizutani followed, losing to Pavel Siruchek.
Fukuhara, the 12th highest-ranked female player in the world, was clearly distraught at her first round exit to the South Korean opponent ranked 144 places below her, and she claimed her defeat was due to having never faced Park before.
"My understanding of my opponent was not that good." she said following her 4-2 defeat.
"I have never played against her in international competition yet so my preparation was not that complete,"
Things got worse for Japan as their top-ranked men's player Mizutani also became a major scalp for world number 131 Pavel Siruchek of the Czech Republic after he was edged out in six games, leaving Japan's hopes of challenging the top Chinese players for singles medals in tatters.
The nation's hopes will now rest on the shoulders of the likes of number 16 seed Koki Niwa, who successfully navigated his first round tie against India's Amalraj Anthony.
The French crowd were treated to solid displays by their top men's singles players as Simon Gauzy and Adrien Mattenet revelled in the support of the home fans to book their places in the second round.
"I was pretty nervous at the end of the match, because I wanted the win so much in front of my home crowd." said Mattenet.
"I was so glad that I could win and move onto the next round."
Elsewhere there were few surprises as the top-ranked Chinese players all sailed through their opening fixtures, with world number one and two respectively, Xu Xin and Ma Long, reigning men's champion Zhang Jike and reigning women's champion Ding Ning all completing 4-0 routs against their opponents.
Europe's greatest hope of a men's singles medal, world number five Timo Boll of Germany, also secured a 4-0 whitewash victory against Admir Duranspahic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The drama continues tomorrow at as the dominant force in the women's game Ding take on compatriot Hu Limei, and Olympic gold medallist Li Xiaoxia faces Sayaka Hirano for a place in the second round.
Xu will be expecting to progress with little difficulty against Par Gerell of Sweden, along with his compatriot Zhang who plays Gustavo Tsuboi of Brazil this evening.
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