Young Japanese paddler Harimoto Tomokazu won both his singles matches in the ongoing men’s team championships at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.
It was a complete reversal for the 18-year-old who had a disastrous run in the singles event.
Tomokazu’s effort wasn’t enough to stop the Germans. Thanks to a combined effort by the trio of Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska, Germany beat the host 3-2.
Despite Ovtcharov rolling over Niwa Koki in straight games in the deciding rubber, the semifinal saw plenty of turnarounds, with both the teams displaying exhilarating table tennis.
In the opening rubber, Boll and Franziska survived a scare by the all-leftie combination of Niwa and Jun Mizutani, which turned out to be crucial in the eventual outcome. After pocketing the first two games in a hurry, the German pair was surprised by the Japanese onslaught for the next two before prevailing in the fifth and deciding game.
Harimoto, who faced a shock defeat in the men’s round of 16, then got Japan back into the match by overpowering Ovtcharov, the singles bronze medallist. In a match that saw thrilling rallies, Harimoto’s powerful forehand drives turned out to be far more superior than Ovtcharov’s trademark backhand punches.
Boll won the battle of veteran left-handers against bespectacled Mizutani to put Germany ahead.
Franzisca ran to a 2-0 lead against Harimoto to put Germany on the cusp of the gold medal match. But Harimoto made a spirited comeback to stretch the semifinal into a deciding rubber. Ovtcharov finished the match off in style to avenge a 3-1 loss in the 2016 Olympic semifinal to the same opponent.
Germany will now be up against China. The men’s team final and bronze medal playoff will be played on Friday.
Earlier, China’s fancied women rolled over Germany 3-0 in the singles semifinal. The women will face Japan in the women’s team championship final on Thursday.
Japan will take on Hong Kong in the bronze medal match.