DUSSELDORD, GERMANY – World Table Tennis Championships debutant Tomokazu Harimoto secured a shock 4-1 win over Rio bronze medalist Jun Mizutani on Thursday in the second round of men’s singles.
The 13-year-old Harimoto, whose parents are from China, won the boy’s singles at the world junior championships in December for players 18 and under and his star is continuing to rise, defeating world No. 6 Mizutani 11-7, 11-6, 14-12, 7-11, 11-8.
“It’s been the happiest moment of my table tennis career,” said an excited Harimoto after beating his idol. “It was good I managed to get on the front foot with both my serves and returns. My emotion came out in my play.”
Harimoto more than matched Mizutani’s strokes as he swung aggressively from both sides to take a 3-0 lead, and showed mental strength too by rebounding after blowing a lead to lose the fourth game, surrendering seven straight points from 7-4 up.
Mizutani, who also won team silver in Rio, finally seemed to have gained a foothold in the match, but the teenager won the first three points of the fifth. Having lost three straight points to see his lead shrink to 9-8, Harimoto forced Mizutani to net and then hit wide to grab a remarkable win.
“I thought I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t win it here,” Harimoto said of the final game.
Mizutani said Harimoto was a deserving winner, but promised to come back stronger.
“I’m frustrated to end without offering everything I can, but I think he’ll carry my share of the load as well (at the rest of this tournament),” the 27-year-old said. “I couldn’t find any openings to exploit from start to finish.
“He was genuinely strong. It was the first meeting but each of his skills was at a higher level than I expected, it was a comprehensive defeat. I need to develop further for his progress too, I can’t retire for some time.”
Elsewhere in men’s singles, Koki Niwa beat Gao Ning of Singapore 4-3 and Yuto Muramatsu overcame Joao Monteiro of Portugal by the same scoreline as they also joined Harimoto in the third round.
In the women’s singles, world No. 8 Miu Hirano reached the last 16 after defeating Taiwan’s Chen Szu-yu 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 in the third round.
Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito also eased into the fourth round, while Miyu Kato staved off South Korea’s Yan Hae Un 4-3 to join the trio.
Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura advanced to Saturday’s mixed doubles semifinals, guaranteeing themselves at least a bronze medal.