At 14 years old, Japan’s sensational junior Tomakazu Harimoto has had his share of growing pains. He has been brilliant at some points and very average at other points – but he has continued to improve and he has shown more and more consistency on bigger and bigger stages.
With a World Ranking of No. 10, this was not exactly a coming-out party for Harimoto, but his performance at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour LION Japan Open was his best performance to date, and for a Japanese player, the Japan Open is also among the biggest of stages.
Harimoto began with a win over Korea’s Woojin Jang. He then beat China’s Zhou Yu to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals he faced Ma Long, the second seed who won the China Open just a week ago. Harimoto’s showdown with Ma Long began one-sided – with Harimoto winning the first three games. Each game was close throughout, but with Harimoto pulling ahead at the end. Ma Long then dominated two games in a row and just as all thought the momentum had changed, Harimoto jumped out ahead in the sixth game and held on to close out the match. Harimoto over Ma Long 4-2 (8, 9, 7, -3, -2, 6).
In an event as large as this, the late rounds are not easier. Harimoto next faced Korea’s Sangsu Lee (No. 8 in the World). Another top opponent and another 4-2 victory. Harimoto over Lee 4-2 (5, -10, , 4, 5, -5, 9). The final pitted the up and coming Harimoto against veteran and former World Champion Zhang Jike. Jike’s path to the final included wins over Denmark’s Jonathan Groth, China’s Liang Jingkun, Japan’s Jin Ueda, and top seeded Timo Boll of Germany.
The final was an epic battle of youth against a veteran executing a come-back. Zhang Jike won the first two games (11-9 and 11-8). Harimoto then won the next two (11-9 and 11-4). Jike then won the decisive 5th game to gain a clear advantage only to watch Harimoto win the final two games to claim the title. Harimoto over Jike to claim the Japan Open title.
Below, you can view the match highlights of this historic run by Harimoto.