by Wade Townsend
The sporting world is full of veterans finding form in their later years. A 36 year-old Roger Federer wins Wimbledon for his 19th Grand Slam title, a 40 year-old Floyd Mayweather takes his boxing record to 50-0, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still winning Super Bowls with four decades behind him.
Table tennis is different.
A new generation has hit the scene, and they announced their arrival at the 2017 Czech Open not with a squeak but with a roar.
‘Kid table tennis’ Tomokazu Harimoto leads the pack. The ferocious 14 year-old just can’t stop making headlines.
At first you could have mistaken his upset wins as just a flash in the pan. Give the players a chance to analyse what the new kid on the block is up to and surely they will put him in his place. Right?
Wrong. Harimoto keeps upsetting the odds; he’s turning winning in to a habit.
Harimoto is now the youngest ever winner of a senior singles title on the World Tour. It’s a record that he completely smashed. Not by days or months, but by two years. And the way he went about winning was a testament to his hunger to improve.
At the 2017 China Open Harimoto lost 4-1 to Timo Boll. Two months later the Czech Open provided a rematch on the best possible stage; the final. This time youth won.
The next exhibit; Mima Ito.
Ito has been a permanent fixture on the World Tour for five years, making it easy to forget that she is just 16 years-old.
At the Czech Open she took the Women’s Singles title. Kasumi Ishikawa was the victim.
Going in to the match Ito had never recorded a win against her teammate. But teenagers hate being told what to do. Like a true rebel she dismissed the seeding and slammed the door behind her, right in the World Ranking’s face.
But don’t make any mistakes, it’s not just a Japanese phenomena.
Chinese Taipei has their very own Lin Yun-Ju. The 16 year-old made the quarterfinals in Olomouc, defeating the experienced Tiago Apolonia along the way. At the World Championships in Düsseldorf Lin was able to make the first round; at the Czech open he was knocking on the door for a medal and it took Hugo Calderano seven games to stop him.
And how about Calderano himself?
At 21 years-old Hugo Calderano is a senior among the new generation. The Brazilian has been able to quickly convert his success in the juniors in to a senior career. A Youth Olympic medallist three years ago, and a player to cause a handful of upsets at Rio 2016. At the Czech Open he was at it again, taking down the no.2 seed in the opening round and making his way to the semifinal, only to be stopped by Harimoto himself.
Generation Z has rebooted the system and given table tennis an upgrade.
Bookmark the 2017 Czech Open and save it to history in your browser; the new generation has arrived.