Sun Yingsha Crushes Mima Ito 4-0 In Olympic Semi-Finals
Sun Yingsha crushed Mima Ito 4-0 (11-3, 11-9, 11-6, 11-4) in the semi-finals in the table tennis women’s singles event at the Tokyo Olympics. Although this match-up was very hyped by this blog and Ito was widely seen as the biggest threat to China at the Olympics, Sun made sure tthat he match was nowhere near competitive. Other than a brief scare in game 2 that Sun was able to take care of with eight straight points, the outcome of the other three games never seemed in doubt once the game passed the half-way point.
Sun’s relentless spins were too much for Ito to handle as Ito missed backhand punch after backhand punch. Ito of course tried to balance the match with her short pips magic tricks, but Sun seemed to be ready for almost all of Ito’s tricks, and when Ito did catch Sun off guard, Sun was able to recover defensively to get back into a spin-to-smack rally that heavily favored Sun.
Sun advances to the finals, where she will play top seed Chen Meng, without even having dropped a single game in this tournament so far.
Sun had her absolute way with Ito throughout the first game. Ito was up 2-1, lost eight points in a row to go down 9-2, and then Sun cruised to an 11-3 victory. Sun was appeared to target Ito’s backhand as Ito did not attempt a forehand smash until she was down 9-3. The strategy clearly worked as Ito missed her backhand punches in every way possible: out, into the net, missed cross-court backhands, missed down-the line-backhands, etc.
Ito appeared to come into game 2 with a solid serve and receive plan as she landed two fast backhand punches against Sun’s long fast serve (that Sun returned into the net) to go up 2-0. Sun then pushed two of Ito’s short serves to the forehand out to give Ito a 4-0 lead. Ito then caught Sun off guard with a deep push to the backhand on the serve return to go up 5-0. Ito then missed a backhand punch to make it 5-1.
Ito then served two half-long to Sun’s forehands. Sun looped the first one cross, and a ready Ito smashed it back even wider cross for the winner. Sun looped the next one down-the-line, and a waiting Ito punched the ball back and won the point with some help from a net-ball to go up 7-1. Ito then missed two serve returns (one flick and one deep push) to cut the lead to 7-3.
Sun then missed a backhand opening on the next point, and Ito was able to execute a pretty chop block-forehand smash sequence on the next point to go up 9-3.
Ito then missed two backhand punches and another chop block to cut the lead to 9-6. Ito served a short serve to Sun’s forehand, and ready for Sun’s forehand slider to the backhand, stepped around for a forehand opening, but Sun was able to catch a net-ball on rhw block and win the point to cut it to 9-7.
Ito called time-out and came out of the time-out with a slow and heavy side-spin banana flick on the serve return to Sun’s elbow. Sun was caught off guard, but was able to defensively recover and eventually hit a wide arcing shot to Ito’s forehand that Ito hit into the net. Sun was able to take control of the offense on the next two points to take a 10-9 lead, and then Ito nearly whiffed a backhand punch on the next point to give Sun eight straight points and the second game 11-9.
Mentally, it seemed that Ito was not as eager to cho in game 3 after the heartbreaking ending to game 2 for her.
Ito opened game 3 with a new long serve to the middle and was able to punch Sun down after she stepped around for a forehand opening. Ito then missed three backhand openings over the next several points, but Sun also missed a backhand block and another long fast serve to the elbow to keep the score tied at 3-3.
Sun then served two straight (i.e. no sidespin) serves, and Ito flicked one out and pushed another one into the net to make it 5-3 Sun. Ito then served two high-toss serves and was able to get a forehand winner on the first one, but Sun was able to counter-spin Ito’s opening on the second to keep the lead at 6-4.
Ito was able to win another quick point with a pretty drop shot on the serve return to cut it to 6-5, but went 1-2 on the next two critical rallies to make it 8-6 Sun. Ito appeared to try her hand at some tricks, but she missed her first attempt at a deep push to make it 9-6, and Sun had no problems with Ito’s funky banana flick on the next point to make it 10-6. Ito tried what appeared to be a new serve on the next point, but Sun had no problem spinning it up, and Ito smashed the ball out to give Sun the third game comfortably 11-6
Between Sun’s 3-0 lead and a potentially still lingering aftertaste from Game 2, Ito was unable to figure out a way to disrupt Sun’s rhythm as she spun Ito’s backhand down to dust on point after point to jump to an 8-3 lead. Ito won a point with a down-the-line backhand open to make it 8-4, and Sun immediately called time-out. Ito missed another two smacks to make it 10-4, and then she missed her own serve to give Sun the game 11-4 and the match 4-0.
Other Game Notes
The crowd was significantly fuller (of Chinese athletes from other sports) in today’s matches than in yesterday’s morning matches.
A very sad-looking Liu Shiwen was shown watching the match by herself in the audience.
The British commentator, which we have memed in this space, doubled down on relentlessly explaining why it is important to wipe sweat off the table.
If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.