The Sports Examiner

TABLE TENNIS: Japan’s prodigy Harimoto claims third World Tour win in Bulgaria

Third World Tour win for Japan's 16-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto (Photo: ITTF)

The story of Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto is an amazing one, showcased on Sunday with his 4-2 victory over China’s Zihao Zhao in the finals of the Bulgaria Open in Panagyurishte.

It’s not that Harimoto won the tournament; it’s his third win on the World Tour, following victories in 2017 and 2018. But he’s doing all this at age 16, after becoming the youngest player ever to win a World Tour event, at age 14, at the Czech Open two years ago.

He was born to play, the Japanese-born son of two professional table tennis players from China, and was handed a paddle at age two. He was the top seed in this tournament and ranks no. 5 in the world; he’s the top-ranked non-Chinese men’s player in the world.

He dominated this event, winning 20 sets to five for his opponents and scored his third win in five appearances in an ITTF World Tour final.

Harimoto’s win was one of two victories for Japan, with Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito winning the Mixed Doubles. China swept the women’s division with wins by Xingtong Chen and the team of Yuting Gu and Zi Mu. Korea’s Youngsik Jeong and Sangsu Lee continued their run as the world’s top doubles team with a win in the men’s Doubles. Summaries:

ITTF World Tour/Bulgaria Open
Panagyurishte (BUL) ~ 15-18 August 2019
(Full results here)

Men/Singles: 1. Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN); 2. Zihao Zhao (CHN); 3. Marcos Freitas (POR) and Quadri Aruna (NGR). Final: Harimoto d. Zhao, 4-2.

Men/Doubles: 1. Youngsik Jeong/Sangsu Lee (KOR); 2. Yukiya Uda/Kazuhiro Yoshimura (JPN); 3. Yizheng Xia/Peifeng Zheng (CHN) and Nima Alamian/Noshad Alamiyan ((IRI). Final: Jeong/Lee d. Uda/Yoshimura, 3-1.

Women/Singles: 1. Xingtong Chen (CHN); 2. Zhuojia He (CHN); 3. Mima Ito (JPN) and Yang Wu (CHN). Final: Chen d. He, 4-1.

Women/Doubles: 1. Yuting Gu/Zi Mu (CHN); 2. Miu Hirano/Saki Shibata (JPN); 3. Sofia Polcanova (AUT)/Bernadette Szocs (ROU) and Xingtong Chen/Jiayi Li (CHN). Final: Gu/Mu d. Hirano/Shibata, 3-0.

Mixed Doubles: 1. Jun Mizutani/Mima Ito (JPN); 2. Te Ma/Yang Wu (CHN); 3. Ovidiu Ionescu/Bernadette Szocs (ROU) and Tomokazu Harimoto/Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN). Final: Mizutani/Ito d. Ma/Wu, 3-1.

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