Full Recap: Darko Jorgic Powers Through Tomokazu Harimoto 4-3
After pulling off at the time arguably the biggest upset of the table tennis men’s singles event at the Tokyo Olympics in his round of 32 match against England’s Liam Pitchford, Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic struck gold again as he pulled off what is indisputably the biggest upset of the tournament so far with a 4-3 (10-12, 11-9, 11-3, 10-12, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7) win over Japan’s third-seeded Tomokazu Harimoto.
Jorgic will play Taiwan’s Lin Yun-Ju in the quarter-finals at 16:00 local Tokyo time. The full men’s singles bracket and results can be viewed here.
Jorgic’s bread and butter play throughout the match was his backhand serve from his forehand corner (primarily wide to Harimoto’s short forehand) followed by a huge backhand third-ball rip. Harimoto appeared to have figured out how to handle this play in games 4 and 5, but Jorgic was able to adjust appropriately and work in his backhand third-ball attack to take game 6 and work in some additional smart play to take game 7.
In the rallies, Jorgic preferred to take a step back and overpower Harimoto as Harimoto’s speed did not appear to bother him that much.
We present a full recap below.
Jorgic opened up the match with his bread-and-butter play as he scored a big backhand winner on his third-ball attack against Harimoto’s short backhand flick to go up 1-0. Harimoto’s service return woes continued in the next service sequence as he pushed a serve return into a net for the first serve and yielded another big backhand opening to Jorgic on the second serve, giving Jorgic a 4-2 lead.
Harimoto and Jorgic continued to exchange rallies and big backhand winners/misses from Jorgic as they worked their way into a 6-6 deadlock.
On Jorgic’s next serve, Harimoto was able to step far enough to the right to get a fast flick going wide off the side of the table. Jorgic, who was likely hunting for the backhand rip, missed his forehand counter, giving Harimoto his first lead of the game at 7-6.
Jorgic was able to quickly reclaim a 9-7 lead with several big backhands again, but a lucky ball from Harimoto helped him break Jorgic’s serve twice to level it at 9-9.
Harimoto’s backhand punch landed out in a backhand-backhand rally to give Jorgic game point, but Jorgic looped Harimoto’s half-long serve out on the very next point as Harimoto leveld the score to 10-10 and let out his first big scream of the match.
Harimoto was able to win the next backhand-backhand rally and landed a down-the-line forehand winner on the next point to take game 1 12-10.
Game 2 was largely the same story as game 1: Jorgic landed in big backhand winners on the third ball, missed a few, and Harimoto’s slight advantage on the rallies and his own serve-and-attack helped keep the score tight. Jorgic continued to trust his backhand serve from the forehand corner and did not deviate from this serve even once. A common pattern was for Jorgic to win both points on his two serves, and then Harimoto to win those two points back on his own two serves.
This trend largely continued until Harimoto had serve down 7-9 with a chance to tie it up at 9-9. Harimoto was able to land one big winner to make it 9-8, but when Jorgic popped up his push on the next point, Harimoto missed his attempted winner, giving Jorgic a 10-8 advantage with serve.
Harimoto was able to save one game point after his excellent blocking kept him alive against an onslaught of Jorgic’s powerful loops. However, on the next point, Jorgic served a rare half-long to Harimoto’s wide forehand, and when Harimoto gave a hesitant down-the-line loop, Jorgic was able to land in his patented big backhand winner to take the second game 11-9.
Harimoto had no answer for Jorgic and his signature backhand in game 3 as Jorgic won the game trivially 11-3. One of Harimoto’s points was off a lucky net ball, and the other two were nothing remarkable either. Harimoto visibly slumped his shoulders when he pushed a ball into the net to go down 9-3 as Jorgic appeared to dominate him both on the table and in the mind.
Harimoto split a pair of points on his own serve to open game 4 at 1-1. Jorgic then landed in two big third-ball backhand rips to go up 3-1. After Harimoto missed another bachkand roll to go down 4-1, his coach called time-out.
Coming out of the tmie-out, Harimoto landed a nice forehand winner on the serve-and-attack, and Jorgic missed his own serve on the next point to put Harimoto right back in the game down 4-3.
However, Jorgic was able to extend his lead back up to 7-4 after Harimoto missed a forehand opening and an attempted wide flick to the forehand. Harimoto popped up a serve return on the next point, but he was able to hunker down and block Jorgic down to keep the lead to a more manageable 7-5.
Harimoto landed in his signature backhand punch winner but missed another, bringing it to 8-6 with Jorgic to serve. Harimoto was able to take a step back and block down Jorgic yet again to bring it to 8-7. Harimoto, who had previously been largely targeting the elbow, went for a down-the-line flick as far to Jorgic’s backhand as possible on the next serve return, and Jorgic missed the third-ball to level it at 8-8.
Harimoto took his first lead of the game after a missed serve return by Jorgic, but Jorgic won the next two points thanks to some solid backhand loops again, giving him a 10-9 lead and a chance to take a 3-1 lead. Harimoto then pulled off his down-the-line flick on the serve return far to Jorgic’s backhand at 9-10 and 11-10. Jorgic missed his third-ball follow-up both times, giving Harimoto the fourth game 12-10.
If Jorgic had lost the match, this game would likely have kept him up at night as he blew a 7-4 lead and missed a serve early in the game.
Harimoto looked like he had figured out Jorgic’s serve to start game 5 as a combination of down-the-line flicks to Jorgic’s backhand and his super wide flicks to Jorgic’s forehand prevented Jorgic from landing in his big backhand third-balls.
However, Jorgic also adjusted, mixing in some long serves and anticipating a down-the-line flick from Harimoto on one point, as he level the score to 8-8. Whether due to standard tactical variation or concern that Harimoto had figured out the serve, Jorgic then served two standard forehand pendulum serves on the next service sequence. Harimoto won both points, and then followed it up with a down-the-line forehand winner against a slow chiquita from Jorgic, giving Harimoto the fifth game 11-8 and a 3-2 lead.
Harimoto made several big plays and rallies early on, but Jorgic was able to keep his backhand serve fresh, and Harimoto missed three early serve returns, keeping the score tied at 6-6. Harimoto was able to force Jorgic to back off from the table and fish on the next point, but Jorgic landed a nice forehand counter-loop to regain control of the point and take a 7-6 lead. However, on the very next point, it was Jorgic who appeared to have the offensive advantage, but Harimoto blocked him down to level it at 7-7.
Jorgic was then able to land a big backhand rip to go up 8-7, and then he served a heavy long serve down-the-line to Harimoto’s backhand that Harimoto opened straight into the net. Harimoto then gave two low-quality pushes following his own serve, and Jorgic was able to capitalize on both to take game 6 11-7 and force a deciding seventh game.
Jorgic hit some smart plays early in Game 7 to go up 4-1, including a a super wide backhand counter to Harimoto’s forehand and a deep push to Harimoto’s backhand that completely stunned Harimoto. However, Harimoto hit a couple nice rallies of his own, and after a pushed serve return into the net by Jorgic leveled the score at 4-4, Jorgic called time-out.
The time-out did not yield any immediate results as Harimoto went up 7-6. Harimoto then again went for his trusty down-the-line backhand flick to Jorgic’s backhand on the next serve return. However, instead of ripping the ball, this time Jorgic executed a soft roll wide to Harimoto’s backhand, and Harimoto was not able to get back in time and hit it back into the net.
Jorgic proceeded to control the points with his backhand for the next several points, and then Harimoto missed one last serve reeturn to give jorgic his fifth straight point and the game 11-6 and the match 4-3.
Jorgic raised his fist in the air, shook hands with Harimoto, and then let out a very delayed scream in celebration after executing the upset of the tournament so far.
Edges and Nets covered this event live, and our notes are posted below. Check back at this site for more live coverage throughout the Olympics.
If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.