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Table tennis: Japan back from verge of losing to Spain
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15:16, August 14, 2008

Japanese women fought hard on Thursday to save themselves from losing to a lower-ranked but tenacious Spain, their second success in the group stage of the Olympic team table tennis tournament.

Japan won 3-2 though former Chinese Shen Yanfei of Spain, ranked 33rd, beat higher-ranked Ai Fukuhara and Haruna Fukuoka in seesaw battles, becoming the biggest troublemaker of the day.

Fukuhara got off to a flying start but soon came up against Shen's granite wall of staunch defence and incisive attack. The 12th-ranked Japanese popular star lost 11-7, 6-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-3.

Sayaka Hirano helped Japan gain the upper hand by beating Zhu Fang 11-8, 13-11, 8-11, 11-4 and teaming up with Fukuoka to crush a Spanish pair 11-5, 11-1, 11-4.

But the match was tied at 2-2 when Shen appeared again, edging out an exhausted Fukuoka 10-12, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 17-15.

Shen said that "I was dreaming at the start. Fukuoda's service is so good that I only focused on it. When I was losing at 2-0, I was still confident that I would win. So I changed my tactics mainly to attack her forehand."

Fukuhara didn't walk into the court until the match reached two and a half hours. But Galia Dvorak, ranked 120th, rallied from two games down to drag her to the deciding game. Fukuhara displayed extraordinary sangfroid, winning 11-6, 11-6, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7.

"I was too nervous in the first game against Shen and my body stiffened. I didn't play well," Fukuhara said. "And I could have won Galia 3-0, but I gave myself too much pressure."

"Our team is not so strong as the Japanese team in terms of overall strength, so we came to challenge them." Shen said, adding that "playing at the Olympics is good enough and we will try to reach the last eight."

Source:Xinhua

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1 China 20 7 5 32
2 USA 10 8 13 31
3 South Korea 6 6 1 13
5 Germany 6 1 2 9
4 Japan 5 2 3 10
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