by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Players very much of the same style, both left handed, both top spin players and both most content when playing a step back from the table, in fact maybe two steps.
Likewise when past results are taken into account there also a similarity; from their very first meeting at the 2004 World Junior Championships in the Japanese city of Kobe to their most recent at the 2016 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open in Doha, all six encounters had been won by Jun Mizutani.
An Olympic Games is special, perhaps past results do not count to the extent they may count in other tournaments; however in Rio de Janeiro history was repeated.
Jun Mizutani made lightning start, the first five points were secured before Marcos Freitas was able to respond; the first game went the way of Japan.
Marcos Freitas captured the second but with Jun Mizutani the slightly quicker player a three-one lead for the Land of the Rising Sun was established. Spirited, Marcos Freitas won the fifth game after Jun Mizutani had saved two game points but it was not to signal a recovery.
At full steam Jun Mizutani raced into a 5-1 lead; the die was cast.
“I am very relieved It was a hard match, I made mistakes but I am very happy I could win the match”, said Jun Mizutani. “Marcos was very aggressive from the forehand; I had analysed his play so I was prepared.”
Success for Jun Mizutani means that despite the rich traditions of Japanese table tennis, he is the first to reach an Olympic Games Men’s Singles semi-final.
In fact there only one other Japanese player has ever reached the last eight; four years ago in London, Seiya Kishikawa, no longer a member of the Japanese National Team advanced to the quarter-finals where he was summarily beaten by China’s Wan Hao.
Meanwhile for Marcos Freitas, it was the best ever finish for a Portuguese player.