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Japan, Russia closing in on playoff berths at Ford Worlds

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — A pair of teams took significant steps on Thursday morning toward nailing down playoff berths at the 2016 Ford World Women’s  Curling Championship, presented by Meridian Manufacturing.

Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa provided, arguably, the morning’s biggest surprise with a 10-4 paddling of former world champ Eve Muirhead of Scotland, while Russia’s Anna Sidorova and her team from Moscow put together a tidy 8-3 win over Germany’s Daniela Driendl (3-7).

The results left the Japanese — who’ve never won a medal at the world women’s championship, and have made the playoffs just twice in 20 previous attempts — alone in first place with an 8-2 record and assured of no worse than a tiebreaker position. Japan closes out round-robin play Thursday at 2 p.m. (all times MDT) against Canada’s Chelsea Carey (7-2), who had the bye on Thursday morning.

Russia, meanwhile, improved to 7-3 and kept its playoff hopes alive heading into its final round-robin tussle Thursday at 2 p.m. against Denmark’s Lene Nielsen (4-5).

The Japanese team — Fujusawa is backed up by third Chinami Yoshida, second Yumi Suzuki, lead Yurika Yoshida, alternate Mari Motohashi and coach J.D. Lind — took control early and never looked back against the Scots, who dropped to 7-3 and still in the playoff picture.

Japan scored three in the first end, a deuce in the third and four more in the fifth as the Scots struggled with a tricky set of yellow rocks on Sheet C (the same tools the Russians will be wielding in their game against Denmark).

We got off to a good first end and played well,” said Fujisawa through an interpreter. “We were able to stay calm while the other team was getting a bit concerned. We’re still playing the round robin so we’re just focusing on our next game, our final round-robin game.  We’re just happy, it all seems to be coming together.”

Japan skip Satsuki Fujisawa, left, and third Chinami Yoshida discuss their options. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Japan skip Satsuki Fujisawa, left, and third Chinami Yoshida discuss their options. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Russia, meanwhile, continued in its quest to improve on the bronze medals it’s won at the past two women’s worlds by dispatching the Germans. Russia scored a first-end three, stole one more in the third, and then put the game out of reach with a fifth-end deuce.

And while the performance level looked strong on Thursday morning, Sidorova said there’s still room for improvement.

“Well, it’s never good enough for me,” she said. “I always want to play without any mistakes. But this is a game, so mistakes will happen, that’s for sure. But to win it, you have to make less mistakes than the opponent — that’s the key.”

While Japan is on top, Canada and Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher (who also had a bye) are at 7-2, followed by the Scots and Russians at 7-3. They’re the only five teams still alive in pursuit of one of four playoff berths.

And the final two draws present tantalizing games that will decide matters. Canada plays Japan at 2 p.m. and then the Scots in a highly anticipated 7 p.m. tilt.

The first- and second-place teams will meet in the Page 1-2 playoff Friday at 7 p.m., with the winner going to Sunday’s 3 p.m. gold-medal game and the loser dropping into Saturday’s 7 p.m. semifinal.

The third and fourth-place teams, meanwhile, will battle Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Page 3-4 game, with the winner moving into the semifinal while the loser will play for the bronze medal Sunday at 10 a.m. against the loser of the semifinal.

In other Thursday morning games, Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson (4-6) was a 10-3 victor over Finland’s Oona Kauste (1-9) while South Korea’s Ji Sun Kim (5-5) scored four in the ninth end for a 7-5 win over Italy’s Federica Apollonio (1-9).

For ticket and other event information, visit http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/tickets/

For the complete results, standings, the schedule and much more, visit to http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/?lang=fr

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2016 Ford Worlds.