by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A three-one verdict with the flag of the Land of the Rising Sun flying high was the outcome.
Against Poland in the opening round Yosuke Kurashima, the head coach of the Japanese Men’s Team had sent out Maharu Yoshimura on Olympic Games debut to play first; it showed an immense amount of confidence in the 23 year old.
Furthermore he had delivered goods, he beat Wang Zengyi; against Germany, once again he was the first to enter the lion’s den. Only this time one of the most successful modern day Olympians was his adversary. Men’s Team silver medallist in Beijing plus bronze medallist in Men’s Team and Men’s Singles in London, 27 year old Dimitrij Ovtcharov was the adversary.
Determined and Resolute
It was a very determined and resolute German who was on view, the odd expansive risky winner from Maharu Yoshimura but it was Dimitrij Ovtcharov who controlled proceedings.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov emerged successful in a most impressive manner to record a straight games success (11-8, 11-3, 11-3).
Unquestionably Japanese hopes rested very much on the shoulders of Jun Mizutani who faced Timo Boll.
It was an intriguing scenario, Jun Mizutani was the player in form, he had won bronze in the Men’s Singles event and he was the higher rated player. Presently he is listed at no.6 on the Men’s World Rankings, Timo Boll is at no.13.
Conversely on the international scene, Jun Mizutani had won only one of the 15 encounters; a fact that needs putting into perspective. There is an eight year age gap; Timo Boll is 35 year old, Jun Mizutani is 27 years of age. However, Timo Boll had won the latest eight meetings, the most recent being the bronze medal match at the Liebherr 2014 Men’s World Cup.
The verdict went in favour of current form, Jun Mizutani won in three straight games (11-9, 11-6, 12-10).
“We expected Maharu Yoshimura to play first, it was no surprise; a turning point came in the match between Timo and Jun; Timo led 7-2 in the first game and lost, from then on Jun played fantastically. He was much better playing short, short and that meant he could make the opening and put pressure on Timo. Today Jun played incredibly well, he is playing the best of his life” Jörg Rosskopf
Equally the doubles presented an intriguing scenario; both Jörg Rosskopf, the German coach and Yosuke Kurashima stuck with tradition. They fielded the same pairings as in the two preceding rounds but should Germany have considered a change when they announced their line-up?
The record for Timo Boll and Bastian Steger was played two matches, lost two matches; in the opening round against Chinese Taipei they had lost to Chen Chien-An and Chiang Hung-Chieh, at the quarter-final stage in opposition to Austria, they had been beaten by Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn.
Double Troubles Continued
Meanwhile the record of Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura was not one to breed confidence. Against Poland in round one they had lost to Daniel Gorak and Wang Zengi; facing Hong Kong in the quarter-finals, they had redeemed themselves by overcoming Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting.
Alas for Germany with Timo Boll and Bastian Steger never firing on all cylinders, the doubles troubles continued, Maharu Yoshimura and Koki Niwa prevailed in four games (11-6, 13-15, 11-4, 11-5).
“Sure we knew the doubles was not in our favour but the defeats against Chinese Taipei and Austria had been very close so I decided not to change; we had a little chance but we were well aware that we had to win the singles matches. I never considered changing and play Dima in the doubles” Jörg Rosskopf
The win was vital, it turned the momentum heavily in favour of Japan. Next on duty was Jun Mizutani, in the form of his life. Bastian Steger was the opponent, also in form but not in the form of his adversary,
Imposingly Jun Mizutani won a three straight games (11-5, 11-4, 11-4), a first ever medal for Japan in the Men’s Team event in the table tennis competitions at an Olympic Games was assured
“Japan played well, congratulations to them; now we focus on the bronze medal” Jörg Rosskopf
Final and Bronze Medal Matches
Japan now advances to the final, Germany to the bronze medal match; both contests will be played on Wednesday 17th August; the former at 11.00am, the latter at 7.30pm.