Ten years on, Japan's Fukuhara faces same situation in Paris

Updated: 2013-05-13 13:24


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PARIS - Ten years after she shocked table tennis world by reaching the last eight at the 2003 Paris world championships at the age of 14, Japan's Fukuhara Ai finds that she will face the same situation again at the Bercy Arena.

Ten years on, Japan's Fukuhara faces same situation in Paris

Japan national team training session for World Table Tennis Championships 2013 at Ajinomoto National Training Center, Tokyo, Japan. APRIL 26, 2013. [Photo/icpress.cn]

In 2003, the "china prodigy" lost to top-seeded Zhang Yining of China in her world championships debut. Under the draw held on Saturday, she will still have to beat top seeded Ding Ning, also from China, if she makes the semifinals.

Ding, 22, was the defending champion and also the silver medalist at last year's London Olympic Games. She was also a member of China's winning team at the London Olympics.

"The Bercy Arena is still as beautiful as 10 years ago," she said. "But it looks a little smaller, maybe it's because I have grown up."

The quarterfinal place remains her best singles achievement at a world championships, even though she led Japan to the third place in the 2004 team worlds.

"I don't know wether I am lucky or unlucky. I have been always drawn to play the top seed. It happened at the Beijing and London Olympic Games. First of all, I must go as far as in London last year," she said.

She was stopped by Ding at the round of 16 in London.

"But every coin has two sides," she said. "Many players have never got a chance to play the world No 1."

Playing table tennis in China from a very young age, Fukuhara can speak fluent Mandarin Chinese and has greater popularity in China than most of other table tennis players from outside of the country.

But she has never beaten Ding in major world competitions.

"I remember that I beat her once when she was a little girl in Beijing," she joked.

Fukuhara, who will play singles, doubles and mixed doubles this time in Paris, said that she is physically strong enough to cope with the busy fixtures.

"I am older than 10 years ago, but I am not too old.

"This is the world championships. I want to enjoy every match and try my best," she said.