USA Table Tennis News SKorea, Japan to bat...

SKorea, Japan to battle for table tennis bronze

Aug. 16, 2008, 1:53 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) South Korea and Japan will play for the women's team table tennis bronze medal after winning semifinal matches Saturday that pitted both against difficult competition.

The Koreans beat the United States 3-0, though two of those matches went to five games. Many of the matches were close until the end, when the Americans inevitably gave up game points or the go-ahead score.

"We weren't fully confident. We stayed in the game, but we're still not as good as them," U.S. player Gao Jun said. "We have to play to our best to have any kind of a chance, but we felt like we played quite well today. We're satisfied with our performance, it's just a shame to lose."

South Korea came into the match less than a day after losing to Singapore in a tight 3-2 contest that lasted 3½ hours.

Japan, ranked 5th in the tournament, beat No. 3 Hong Kong 3-2 in the other contest. After Sayaka Hirano scored the final point over Tie Yana, she ran to the bench and hugged her teammates, all of them covering their tear-stained faces with their hands.

"We didn't think we'd be able to beat Hong Kong, we were so excited," Ai Fukuhara told reporters afterward, her eyes still misty. "Our goal was to win a medal. So tomorrow we have to get back to work."

The crowd chanted "Go Hong Kong!" throughout, but it was not enough to lift them past the speedy Japanese.

"They played better than me, that's all I can say," Tie said. "I had some problems with receiving the serves. That made me feel like I was behind, and I also don't think I prepared well enough."

Hong Kong was demolished by top-ranked China the previous evening, in a 3-0 contest that was over in 52 minutes.