by Ian Marshall, Editor
They were beaten in the first preliminary round of the men’s doubles event by Russia’s Alexey Liventsov and Mikhail Paikov, they suffered in four games (11-9, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6).
Make no mistake, the Russian pair is one of quality, most notably they reached the semi-final stage of the men’s doubles event the 2014 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Bangkok.
However, the current focus for all coaches is the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; playing on home soil, Japan will want to match the men’s team achievement of Rio de Janeiro when they ended proceedings the silver medallists. However, with the emerge in the past four years of Tomokazu Harimoto does that present a team selection problem?
In Rio de Janeiro the team comprised Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura. The selection was straightforward, Jun Mizutani being left handed like Koki Niwa, either could partner the right handed Maharu Yoshimura in the doubles. Always Koki Niwa allied with Maharu Yoshimura, Jun Mizutani, the leading name, was always selected for the two singles matches.
Now in Tokyo the doubles in the team event will be the first match and Tomokazu Harimoto is now Japan’s leading name. Judging by results, it would appear that Jun Mizutani and Koki Niwa will line up alongside Tomokazu Harimoto.
The question posed, Tomokazu Harimoto is right handed, a right hander with a left hander is perceived as the best combination; does he play in the doubles with either Jun Mizutani or Koki Niwa and thus only play one singles?
Alternatively do Jun Mizutani and Koki Niwa form the doubles pair? In Hong Kong the partnership of Jun Mizutani and Koki Niwa did not fire but there are thoughts that with the modern day “banana” backhand return of service, forearm high, racket circumnavigating the ball that two left handers together could be most effective.
Prior to banana time, the combination worked for Frenchmen Patrick Chila and Jean-Philippe Gatien, the won men’s doubles bronze at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games; can the same combination now work for Jun Mizutani and Koki Niwa? Can two lefts make everything right?