Japan teens blast away at China wall in table tennis

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Mima Ito returns a shot en route to winning the women’s title at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open on Sunday in Kitakyushu.

The Yomiuri ShimbunKITAKYUSHU — Teenagers Mima Ito and Tomokazu Harimoto swept the table tennis singles titles at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open on Sunday in Kitakyushu, both upsetting big Chinese names in their final matches.

Ito beat two Chinese players in a row — after coming from behind to beat Chen Xingtong 4-3 in the women’s semifinals, the 17-year-old defeated Wang Manyu 4-2 in the final to secure her first Japan Open title.

Harimoto, 14, defeated Lee Sang Su of South Korea 4-2 in the semifinal of the men’s singles. In the final, he beat London Olympic gold medalist Zhang Jike of China 4-3 to also win the tournament for the first time.

Ito and Harimoto became the first Japanese players to sweep the singles titles at the Japan Open since Masato Shiono and Ai Fukuhara achieved the feat in 2013.

Ito feels progress

Wang had long been an unbeatable opponent for Ito. They’re about the same age, so they’ve competed numerous times since their junior days, but Ito had never come out on top.

Ito was especially keen to beat Wang in Sunday’s final, because she had lost to her in both the Hong Kong Open in May and the China Open in June. In the Hong Kong Open, Ito allowed Wang to come from behind after winning the first two games.

At the Japan Open, Ito countered Wang’s powerful drives with unorthodox returns to win the first two games. However, after losing the third game, Ito thought: “I couldn’t help recalling the Hong Kong [Open] for a moment, but I reset my mindset.”

Ito used to become impatient in close matches because she focused too much on winning the games.

In Sunday’s final, Ito told herself to calm down. She was losing at the beginning of the sixth game but ultimately made it to deuce and won the game.

“I think I mentally overcame my opponent,” Ito said. “I could feel the progress I’ve made.”Speech

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Tomokazu Harimoto in action at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open in Kitakyushu, where the teenager won the men's title on Sunday.

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