Li Xiaoxia (top) of China returns the ball during the women's singles semifinal of table tennis between Li Xiaoxia of China and Fukuhara Ai of Japan at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 10, 2016. Li Xiaoxia won Fukuhara Ai with 4:0.（Xinhua/Lin Yiguang）
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Defending champion Li Xiaoxia went one step closer to make history as the third seed here made short work of Ai Fukuhara on Wednesday morning to book a place in the Rio Olympic table tennis women' s singles final.
There' s no paddler in the sport' s 28-year history as one of the Olympic Games program to have won back-to-back individual championship.
"Ai and I are good friends off court," said Li. "I knew she' s playing very well these two days, so I had prepared to play a full-set semifinal. There' re just six or seven days left in my last Olympic Games and I want to enjoy it thoroughly."
Li beat Fukuhara in straight sets, 11-4, 11-3, 11-1, 11-1.
"My performance was not bad, but Xiaoxia' s better," commented Fukuhara, who' s made her name well known by the world since more than a decade ago.
Leading 9-1 into the first set, the 28-year-old Li denied a late comeback from the sixth-seeded Japanese to win 11-4, before improving it to 2-0 on sets.
Kong Linghui, head coach of the Chinese women' s table tennis team as well as a Grand Slam winner himself, called a timeout for Li when she Led 2-0 and 4-1 in the third set, before the women' s Slam winner came back to the court and just let her opponent win a single point.
"Xiaoxia was the defending champion here and a winner of Grand Slam of table tennis. And I saw her going all out for the game against me and thought that I should do that too and pull nothing back," said Fukuhara.
To the 27-year-old, who upset Singapore' s No. 2 seed Feng Tianwei 4-0 in the quarters, a place in the semifinals has been her best result so far in an Olympic Games as her best result in the previous three Olympic Games was reaching the quarterfinals in London.
"I was under pressure but Xiaoxia, as the defending champion and a member of the Chinese team, was even more pressured," she said. "I have nothing to lose. I really do."
Failing to make the final though the all-time dominating Chinese, Fukuhara kept her nation's hope for a women's singles medal alive after Japan's top female paddler Kasumi Ishikawa crashed out in her opening match against DPR Korea's defender Kim Song I in Sunday's third round.
Later on Wednesday morning, Kim was picked up by twice world champion Ding Ning in the other semifinal with the winner between them going to the final and the other one playing earlier in the evening in the third-place play-off.