by Ian Marshall, Editor
Tomokazu Harimoto is the no.5 seed in the men’s singles event, Mima Ito, the no.3 seed in the women’s singles competition.
The fact that they are the main challengers is made event more acute, following the withdrawal of Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching, alongside other members of the Chinese Taipei team; the only name remaining from that group is the venerable Chuang Chih-Yuan.
Furthermore, it is a significant name, earlier this year, Tomokazu Harimoto lost to Chuang Chih-Yuan in the opening round at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open.
Nevertheless, both Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito enter proceedings in the best possible state. They won the respective men’s singles and women’s singles titles at last week’s 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open in Budapest, simply you cannot do better!
However, it is the manner in which they won which must give a confidence boost. Tomokazu Harimoto dropped just three games en route to the title, two matches standing out. At the semi-final stage he beat Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, before accounting for colleague Yukiya Uda.
Notably, in the past he has shared the honours with Dimitrij Ovtcharov, a much more experienced player, whilst one month ago he lost to Yukiya Uda in the men’s singles final at the All-Japan Championships. Both those wins undoubtedly help immensely with self-belief.
In a different manner for Mima Ito, the recovery she made in the final against Cheng I-Ching, down 2-3 in games and 2-7 in the sixth must equally be a confidence booster.
Additionally, both can take great self-belief in their past performances against the elite of China.
On the international stage Mima Ito has never beaten Chen Meng, the leading name on duty in Doha but in their three encounters she has never lost in straight games. Somewhat differently she has notable wins to her credit against Sun Yingsha, the no.2 seed, on the ITTF World Tour she succeeded in 2018 in Bremen and last year in Sweden; when they meet the contest is always on a knife-edge, fireworks!
Also, last year in Sweden, Mima Ito beat Wang Manyu having also prevailed the previous year in Japan; quite simply once she finds a fast tempo to her play, the early attacking strokes in rally give her opponents no time to breathe.
Never was the more in evidence than at the 2018 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open, when one after another she beat Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling to claim the title.
Plays with no fear
Mima Ito plays with no fear, it is the same for Tomokazu Harimoto, his vocal reactions underlining that fact. Like Mima Ito there is only one Chinese elite name he has never beaten; that of Xu Xin.
In seven contests on the international stage, only once, the men’s singles semi-final at the 2019 Asian Championships in Yogyakarta, has he not secured at least a single game.
Meanwhile, at the 2018 Asian Cup in Yokohama he beat Fan Zhendong; in the same year on the ITTF World Tour in Japan, he accounted for Ma Long, a feat he repeated at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 Men’s World Cup. Similarly, in 2018 he overcame Lin Gaoyuan at the Grand Finals and last year at the T2 Diamond in Singapore.
Most creditable wins and one more which might be an omen for Tomokazu Harimoto; last year he recorded a win against Liang Jingkun; the occasion the second round of the men’s singles event at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open.
Accepted both Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito have experienced defeats but the fact they have the wins, even if just in games, means they can succeed again.
They have the talent, they have the ability; most important, above all else, it is clear, they have the self-belief.