by Ian Marshall, Editor
The respective men’s singles and women’s singles winners in Shenzhen, China’s Ma Long and Chen Meng do not make the journey but they are rather the exception than the rule. Two players in particular make the border crossing, two players who shone in the Chinese city, two players who prevented all Chinese semi-finals.
Japanese teenagers, Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito are both on duty; notably both occupy the second seeded position in the draw.
Perhaps neither lived up to expectations at the recent Liebherr 2019 World Championships, Tomokazu Harimoto departed in the fourth round of the men’s singles event beaten by Korea Republic’s An Jaehyun; for Mima Ito it was an opening round defeat at the hands of China’s Sun Yingsha.
However, surely the important fact is how they responded in Shenzhen; sport whoever you are has its ups and downs. After gaining a degree of revenge against the Korea Republic by beating Cho Seungmin, Tomokazu Harimoto accounted for England’s Liam Pitchford; it may on paper not have appeared the most earth shattering win but last year on the only two prior occasions when the two had met, the decision had gone in favour of the Englishman. Success against Liam Pitchford was followed by success in opposition to Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting before the machine like precision of Ma Long ended adventures.
However, Tomokazu Harimoto did extract the opening game against the champion elect, nobody did any better in a tournament that was the worst possible time to face Ma Long. He had the same attitude as at the Liebherr 2016 ITTF Men’s World Cup in Halmstad, on that occasion it was the desire to hold all three major titles – Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup – at the same time; he succeeded. In Shenzhen it was to win a record 28th ITTF World Tour men’s singles title, he succeeded.
Outstanding from Tomokazu Harimoto; now one of the most difficult tasks in sport is beating Chinese female players, always they have provided the Olympic champion, the World champion since 1993.
In Shenzhen, every match in which Mima Ito competed was against Chinese opposition or against a player whose skills were honed in China. She beat Wang Yidi, Feng Tianwei and most notably Ding Ning, before suffering at the hands of Wang Manyu.
Now in Hong Kong can Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito win the respective men’s singles and women’s singles titles? It is not out of the question and they have achieved the feat before; two years ago they were crowned champions in Olomouc at the Seamaster 2017 Czech Open.
They do say history repeats itself.