by Ian Marshall, Editor
Thus Tomokazu Harimoto won his fourth ITTF World Tour title, in 2017 he succeeded in the Czech Republic, in 2018 on home soil in Japan, last year he prevailed in Bulgaria; if that one a year policy continues he now has to wait until 2021 for his next!
If you wish you can add the 2018 Grand Finals title to his credit, include that event, it was for Tomokazu Harimoto his 12th appearance in an ITTF World Tour men’s singles semi-final; for Yukiya Uda, the boys’ singles runner up at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Bendigo, it was totally unexplored territory.
Required to qualify, ousting England’s Liam Pitchford in the penultimate round (11-13, 11-8, 11-5, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7) his previous best had been the second round last year in the Czech Republic.
In Budapest, Yukiya Uda more than made his presence felt; positive is a somewhat understatement, the concept of playing in a passive manner, blocking the ball to keep the pressure on an opponent and force errors, does not appear in his repertoire.
“I was looking forward to this final to take my revenge after this year’s All Japan Championships. He has a very fast attacking style and in the first game, he could control me all the way. I had to improve my service to be in control of the match. Once I could read the serves better I could play with a higher tempo and higher quality on every ball. After winning the second game I was in control of the match and my confidence grew point by point and started to play on a higher level. I am very happy about the title and the fact I was able to play my game on a high level in Budapest.” Tomokazu Harimoto
Against Tomokazu Harimoto that was arguably his undoing, Tomokazu Harimoto proved the more secure, the safer player, the one to back when rallies developed.
Yukiya Uda is powerful, strong from half distance; stepping around the backhand to play his favoured forehand is an option oft used but when required to execute a backhand a step back from the table, he lets rip. Perhaps the stroke is not quite as expansive of the former Greek international, Kalin Kreanga but it’s in the mode.
A most effective range serves, strong from the lower part of the body are major features of Yukiya Uda. My mind goes back many decades to another Japanese left hander who was fast and powerful in the mode of the teenager, the era of the 1960s and 1970s when the pen-hold grip was dominant. Is not Yukiya Uda the modern day Koji Kimura, now a personal honorary member of the International Table Tennis Federation? There were few could match him for speed and a powerful forehand.
Maybe similar to Koji Kimura from yesteryear and also similar to a left hander of the modern era; not at all in style but like Koki Niwa, not a flicker of emotion; the total opposite of Tomokazu Harimoto!
Runners up spot but to his great credit, even when after electing for “time out” at 5-all in the fifth game and then trailing 10-8, the positive approach never ceased; he went down all guns blazing.
Gremlins laid to rest
Revenge for Tomokazu Harimoto, there was also a sense of avengance as he added another title to his name. He laid the Budapest gremlins to rest; at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships staged in the Hungarian capital city, he had experienced a surprise fourth round defeat at the hands of Korea Republic’s An Jaehyun.
Some ten months, the 16 year old facing his two years more senior opponent, made no mistake; a first appearance at an ITTF World Tour tournament in Hungary, the perfect debut.