27 Aug 2017

The fourth seed winning a tournament is not a sensation but when the player occupying that position is only 14 years and 61 days old, it is a sensation.

On the afternoon of Sunday 27th August, Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto was crowned Men's Singles champion at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Czech Open in Olomouc to become the youngest ever player ever to win such a title.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Furthermore, at the final hurdle he beat a most redoubtable opponent; he overcame Germany’s Timo Boll, the top seed, to reserve the top step of the podium (11-3, 4-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9).

Success means that my some margin he surpasses the achievement of China’s Yu Ziyang, the previous youngest ever. He was 16 years and 30 days old when he won the Men’s Singles title at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour Japan Open. Tomakazu Harimoto is almost two years the junior of Yu Ziyang.

In Olomouc, fearless, Tomokazu Harimoto was very quickly into a rhythm; he won the first game in style but then Timo Boll recovered to secure the next two. In the fourth he led 6-5. Concerned that the momentum was starting to flow in favour of Timo Boll; Yosuke Kurashima, the Japanese National Coach, sitting courtside, called “Time Out”.

It proved a most prudent move; Tomokazu Harimoto recovered to secure the game by the very narrowest of margins, before winning the fifth and then establishing a 5-3 lead in the sixth. Now, Timo Boll elected for “Time Out” and returned to the court surrounds to hear the advice of Jörg Rosskopf, the German National Team coach.

Timo Boll returned, he was more aggressive, positive; quicker on the first attack. He seized control of the situation and established an 8-6 lead; surely a seventh game beckoned. It was not to be the outcome, vocal as always, the ear drums resonating, Tomakazu Harimoto levelled at 9-all.

At 10-9 he held game point, match point, championship point, record breaking point; the chance was taken. At the 321st ITTF Word Tour tournament, the history books were re-written.

Success for Tomokazu Harimoto and a very slight air of revenge against Germany; on Sunday 19th February at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Indian Open, when 13 years and 237 days old, his one other appearance in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final, Tomokazu Harimoto had been beaten by Dimitrij Ovtcharov (11-6, 11-8, 11-4, 14-12).

“Age doesn’t matter, you must play and fight against everyone! It was my second World Tour final, first time I lost my chance, this time I won; now at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games I want to win Men’s Singles and Men’s Team gold but I know I must practise hard and fight to gain the glory.” Tomokazu Harimoto

Different for Tomokazu Harimoto six months later and different for Timo Boll; on their one other meeting in a world ranking event; earlier this year Timo Boll beat Tomokazu Harimoto in five games (6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 12-10, 11-5) at the semi-final stage of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour China Open.

At the final hurdle he was beaten by Dimitrij Ovtcharov (17-15, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 12-10); now in three ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles finals this year, for Timo Boll, the runners up spot has been his lot; the one win was in Korea.

However, overall the reading pays Timo Boll great credit; he has now competed in 29 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final, he has won 19 times.

In Olomouc youth prevailed, earlier in the day, 16 year old Mima Ito, also from Japan, had won the Women’s Singles title; thus the combined age of the two champions is 30 years.

It is the youngest ever and six years younger than Timo Boll!

World Tour 2017 Seamaster Czech Open Timo Boll Tomokazu Harimoto

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