Harimoto a man on a mission
Harimoto, the top seed, entered the action in Budapest with a point to prove. The previous month at the All Japanese National Championships he had been beaten in the men’s singles final by Yukiya Uda. Furthermore, the last time he had played in Budapest, at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, he had experienced a shock fourth round defeat.
In determined fashion, debts were settled and gremlins laid to rest; after ending German hopes by beating Benedikt Duda (12-10, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 11-4) and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.3 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8), Harimoto then got his revenge over Uda in the final (7-11, 11-8, 11-2, 11-6, 11-9) to seal his first international title of 2020.
“I was looking forward to this final to take my revenge after this year’s All Japan Championships. After winning the second game I was in control of the match, my confidence grew point by point and I started to play at a higher level. I am very happy about the title and the fact I was able to elevate my game to a high level in Budapest.” – Tomokazu Harimoto
A fourth ITTF World Tour men’s singles title for Harimoto, this was totally new territory for Uda, whose previous best on the circuit was a second round exit at last year’s Czech Open.
In Budapest he ended European hopes, defeating Austria’s Robert Gardos (11-6, 7-11, 16-18, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7), before overcoming England’s Liam Pitchford, the no.9 seed (11-13, 11-8, 11-5, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7) en route to Sunday’s silver medal finish.
Ito leaves it late to celebrate!
While Harimoto got his hands on gold without ever being extended the full seven games distance, it was somewhat different for fellow Japanese star, Mima Ito, top seed in the women’s singles event.
In the final against Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.3 seed, down 2-3 in games, in the sixth she trailed 2-7 before recovering to win her eighth ITTF World Tour women’s singles title (11-7, 1-11, 11-6, 7-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-7).
“We have played each other a number of times, so we know each other’s game really well. It is never easy to come up against her. Game six was very important when I changed the direction of play. For the final game I played stronger and I found my rhythm. I am very happy about taking the trophy here in Budapest.” – Mima Ito
Earlier in the event, Ito had been required to break down defensive play; at the quarter-final stage she beat colleague Hitomi Sato, the no.6 seed (9-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-1, 11-2), prior to overcoming Germany’s Han Ying, the no.14 seed (11-7, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-4).
Desperation for Cheng I-Ching
Despite being currently listed at no.10 on the women’s world rankings, Cheng I-Ching has never won an ITTF World Tour women’s singles title in over 12 years of trying.
After overcoming Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the no.5 seed (11-8, 12-10, 13-11, 11-4) and ousting Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.2 seed (9-11, 11-4, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7), it had looked as though this might be the 28 year old Cheng’s moment of glory. Notably, Ishikawa was a player in form, having just won the women’s singles title at the ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open.
Alas it was once again ultimate desperation for Cheng, who let her lead slip against Ito in that dramatic final.
First tastes of glory
In both the men’s doubles and women’s doubles events, there would be new names to celebrate success on the ITTF World Tour: Benedikt Duda and Patrick Franziska combined to win their first title as a pair, and Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa would do the same.
The no.2 seeds, at the final hurdle Duda and Franziska beat India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9). Meanwhile, Hirano and Ishikawa, the no.4 seeds and runners up three weeks earlier in Germany, accounted for Hong Kong China’s Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching, the no.2 seeds (11-6, 11-9, 12-10).
A women’s doubles silver medal for Doo Hoi Kem, however alongside colleague Wong Chun Ting there was gold and a career third ITTF World Tour mixed doubles title as a pair. As top seeds, the duo overcame Germany’s Franziska and Petrissa Solja, the no.7 seeds (11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9) in the final.
A happy Harimoto family
In Budapest, Japan had emerged the most prominent nation, but there would be even more success for the Land of the Rising Sun at the Swedish Junior and Cadet Open in Örebro, which also concluded on Sunday.
11 year old Miwa Harimoto, the younger sister of Tomokazu, beat Anna Hursey of Wales (11-13, 11-6, 5-11, 11-2, 11-4) to win the cadet girls’ singles title, just one week after striking gold at the Czech Junior and Cadet Open.
The Harimoto family are the first in history to have a brother claim an ITTF World Tour title and sister an ITTF World Junior Circuit title (or vice versa). For both siblings to celebrate on the same day was even more extraordinary.