by Ian Marshall, Editor
In the third round of the men’s singles event Tomokazu Harimoto beat Wong Chun Ting (11-7, 11-5, 11-3, 10-12, 12-10); in the same round of the women’s singles competition, Mima Ito overcame China’s Ding Ning (7-11, 12-10, 18-16, 13-11, 11-9).
Now, if any other 15 year old had beaten the athletic Wong Chun Ting, they would have been dancing in the streets of Tokyo. Tomokazu Harimoto was the higher ranked player, the no.4 seed as opposed to Wong Chun Ting who was the no.14 seed. Furthermore, on the two most recent meetings, in 2018 at the ITTF-Asia Cup in Yokohama and at the Liebherr 2019 World Team Championships in Halmstad, Tomokazu Harimoto had prevailed.
The notable win was arguably the round before, when he had beaten England’s Liam Pitchford, the no.15 seed, in four straight games (11-8, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8), the player against whom had lost on their two previous meetings, last year at the ITTF Team World Cup in London and then at the Liebherr 2019 World Team Championships.
Staying close to table, controlling the play, Tomokazu Harimoto demonstrated a maturity beyond his years against two players who delight in top spin play; it was very much the same for Mima Ito, staying close the table she used her speed and severity on the first three attacking strokes to good effect.
It was a splendid performance from Tomokazu Harimoto, even more so from Mima Ito; not only the fact that Ding Ning was the top seed has won every accolade the sport has to offer and can stand proudly alongside the best who ever lived but for another reason.
At the semi-final stage of the women’s singles event last November at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open, Mima Ito had caused a major upset by beating Ding Ning. Chinese players lose, much less often than others but they do lose; when that happens the coaches watch the videos, make a plan of campaign, avenge the defeat and continue to avenge the defeat.
A classic example involves Ding Ning; at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships, Ding Ning lost to Miu Hirano, she then won all of the next five meetings.
Earlier this year in March, Ding Ning redressed the balance against Mima Ito. She prevailed at the quarter-final stage at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open, so surely the pattern against Miu Hirano would follow?
It didn’t and the fact Mima Ito won today in Shenzhen makes the performance even more remarkable.
Now the next question and it applies also to Tomokazu Harimoto, can they repeat the such performances on the really big stage, the biggest of all, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.