Olympic Table Tennis Team Quarterfinal Round-Up
Japan slides Harimoto into doubles, Korea’s young women can’t get it done, and Dimitrij Ovtcharov continues to break Taiwan’s heart. We take a look at the key results from the quarter-final team matchups at the Tokyo Olympics so far. Full bracket and results can be viewed here.
Japanese Men Defeat Sweden 3-1
Japan defeated Sweden 3-1 after making the interesting line-up decision to have Tomokazu Harimoto play doubles with Koki Niwa and have Jun Mizutani at the ace position that plays two singles. Normally, the strongest player, in this case Tomokazu Harimoto, plays the ace position.
Japan has been understandably tight-lipped about the reason for the line-up change. It appears to be somewhat related to lack of confidence in the Mizutani/Niwa double-lefty pairing and trust in Mizutani to take care of singles. It may be possible that Japan for some reason does not have confidence in Harimoto as the ace player or that Japan did not want Harimoto to play Falck, but Japan clearly would not be inclined to reveal such reasons.
Regarding his participation in the doubles, Harimoto gave a response that can be interpreted as vanilla or cryptic: “When I think about my current condition and the team, that is the best [for me to play doubles], so I did my best with the feeling that I would take two games together with the singles.”
The line-up change paid off for Japan as they won the doubles match, which in principle should have been bolstered by Harimoto’s presence. Japan then selected Harimoto to play the third match (i.e. Japan purposely chose Niwa and not Harimoto to play Falck) against Anton Kaellberg. Harimoto won 3-1, giving Japan the 2-1 lead in matches.
Niwa then defeated Falck 3-0 to give Japan the 3-1 victory. Mizutani, who played Falck in the second match, told Niwa that Falck’s forehand was not in good condition, which Niwa said he exploited.
Going into the semi-finals, Niwa said, “I was able to beat the top-ten player in the world ranking. I’m confident.”
Japan will face Germany in the semi-finals in a rematch of the 2016 semi-finals.
Korean Women’s Youth Falter In 3-2 Loss to Germany
Germany defeated Korea 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the women’s team event. Korea opted to place their weakest player, Choi Hyojoo, at the ace position, due to the strength of the Shin Yubin/Jeon Jihee pairing. Korea, like the Japanese men, opted to have their strongest player, Jeon Jihee, avoid the ace position.
After Korea won the doubles 3-2 and Han Ying defeated Choi Hyojoo 3-0, Jeon defeated Petrissa Solja 3-0 to give Korea the 2-1 lead. Han Ying defeated Shin 3-1 to level it at 2-2, and then Shan Xiaona defeated Choi 3-0 to give Germany the 3-2 victory.
Afterwards, a disappointed Shin said, “I should have won the 4th singles team event, but I couldn’t. I’m sorry that I couldn’t finish the game that my sisters had all caught up with.”
“I played a difficult game with difficult players. I will use the Tokyo Olympics as an experience and train to compete better in the future.”
Korean leadership, while surely disappointed, was also optimistic about the future of their young squad. Korean table tennis secretary general (don’t ask what that position means) stated, “Han Ying is a very strong player. She did very well, adapting quickly against an experienced player. We will grow even more with this tournament as an opportunity.”
Dimitrij Ovtcharov Continues to Break Taiwan’s Heart
Germany opened the team match against Taiwan with a good start after winning the first doubles game 11-0 before going on to win 3-1. While Lin Yun-Ju was able to get his revenge against Dimtrij Ovtcharov and win both his singles matches as the ace player, Germany was ultimately able to pull out a win with Ovtcharov defeating Chuang Chih-Yuan 3-0 in the deciding fifth match.
Ovtcharov continues to be a thorn in the side for Taiwanese table tennis. After Ovtcharov sent defeated in the London 2012 bronze-medal match and Lin in this years bronze-medal match, Ovtcharov again denied Taiwan a chance at a medal with a 3-0 victory over Chuang in the deciding fifth match.
After losing to Japan in the semi-finals at the Rio Olympics, Germany is hungry for revenge in their semi-final match-up this year.
“We lost to Japan five years ago in Rio, and we want to make it better this time,” Ovtcharov said.
“For Japan, it’s the most important match in their home Olympics. We’re also a little bit happy that the hall is not completely full,” Boll joked.
“But yeah, we will prepare like we always did, we give it our best and try everything.”
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.