June 18 - Top Japanese players will be looking to prove themselves after a shambolic showing at last month's World Championships in Paris when they compete at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Super Series Japan Open event, which gets underway in Yokohama tomorrow.
Two of the Japanese women's team members that won silver at London 2012, Kasumi Ishikawa and Ai Fukuhara, are seeded first and second respectively, leaving home fans dreaming of an all-Japanese final in the absence of the world's dominant Chinese players.
But the pair will have to make drastic improvements on their performance at last month's World Championships, in which Fukuhara crashed out in the first round, and Ishikawa followed in the second.
World number eight Ishikawa, who was surprisingly hammered 4-0 in her second round clash in Paris by North Korean Myong Sun Ri, is relishing the chance to get back in front of her fans on home turf and perform to her potential.
"I am feeling good," she said.
"This is the first international tournament held in Japan since the London Olympics, so I really want to perform.
"I hope everyone will come and cheer me on, which will help me produce a good performance."
Ishikawa and Fukuhara were not the only Japanese players to take an early exit at last month's World Championships, as world number 10 Jun Mizutani was also eliminated at the first hurdle after being defeated by a man ranked 121 places beneath him, young Czech player Pavel Sirucek.
Mizutani will have the hopes of the nation resting on his shoulders, and a strong performance will also be expected from Youth Olympic Games champion Koki Niwa.
But up-and-coming local duo Kenta and Kenji Matudaira will also be of interest to home fans, and 22-year-old Kenta believes that he has what it takes to defeat the top seed Chih-Yuan Chuang of Chinese Taipei, who he will face in the second round should both players progress from their opening fixtures.
"Me and Chuang have been very close when playing," he said.
"It will be a tough match but I think I can win, especially with the home crowd on my side."
"I took a break after my breakthrough event in Paris, so I am not feeling 100 per cent fit, but hopefully I will be good enough", said the world number 28, who defeated top 10-ranked players in Chinese veteran Ma Lin and Vladimir Samsonov on his way to the quarter-finals at the World Championships.
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Results and live updates are available here.
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