Fourth day of play at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was a day of upsets with star names crashing out against the odds in both the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events with local favourite Tomokazu Harimoto the most significant casualty on Tuesday 27th July.
Heartbreak for Japan
Undoubtedly the headline news of the day came in the Men’s Singles event as Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto suffered a gut-wrenching round of 16 defeat at the hands of Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic.
Considered amongst the favourites in the gold medal race, third seed Harimoto, 18, was left stunned as Jorgic, seeded 18th, summoned up a career-defining performance to dash the Japanese teenager’s dreams of landing gold on home soil. With Koki Niwa losing out to Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov later in the day (11-4, 7-11, 11-0, 11-7, 11-9), Japanese hopes in the Men’s Singles event have officially ended.
“It’s just an amazing feeling for me to beat Harimoto in his own country and be in the quarter-final. I prepared well with my coach. I was strong mentally today and didn’t show any signs of nerves. I was fighting for every point, and this was my goal. If you play top 10 players, then you have to be aggressive; if you play safe, then they will punish you. I don’t think he was expecting this from me today. It’s just amazing!” said Darko Jorgic
“My opponent has been very strong in the past few years, and yesterday he beat a very strong player in Liam Pitchford, so I was prepared, but I couldn’t defeat him on the day. The Olympics isn’t over for me yet, I want to help the team win a medal,” said Tomokazu Harimoto
2019 World Championships runner-up Mattias Falck, Sweden, succumbed to a seven-game defeat at the hands of Omar Assar in round three (11-5, 6-11, 8-11, 13-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8), with the Egyptian going on to become the first player from an Arab-speaking country to reach the quarter-finals with victory over Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan (11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7).
A day that will be remembered for years to come, Germany’s Timo Boll will play no further part in the Men’s Singles draw following yet another round of 16 exit at the Olympic Games. Eighth seed Boll faced a difficult opponent in Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, who outpaced the former World number one across five games (11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-4). Falling at the same hurdle in 2008, 2012 and 2016, Boll has failed to advance beyond the round at four consecutive attempts.
“I thought I made a good start at the beginning, but then he found his rhythm and he started to resemble a wall. Even from difficult positions he had good answers, normally my positioning causes other players problems, but for him it actually proved to be one of his strengths. Overall, he played really well so congratulations to him. It’s still a long wait for the next Olympics; I’m physically fit, and if I’m still good enough by then to be a part of the German team, then why not,” said Timo Boll
The day’s results set up a diverse quarter-final line-up featuring four continents with Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the first-ever Latin American player to reach the stage, joining two European hopefuls and four of Asia’s finest in the final eight.
Further casualties on Women’s Singles front
Cheng I-Ching was a standout departure in the Women’s Singles event, with the number four seed from Chinese Taipei exiting in round three. A quarter-finalist at Rio 2016, Cheng was beaten two rounds earlier at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium as Singapore’s Yu Mengyu, seeded 26th, cruised to a straight games victory (11-5, 11-9, 12-10, 11-6). Yu would later seal her spot in the quarter-finals, battling past United States’ Liu Juan (11-9, 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 11-8).
“This could possibly be my last Olympics, so I’m really determined to do well. I fought for every point, and I didn’t want to bow out from the courts with any regrets. Perhaps I was also lucky to have a day’s rest and enough time for preparation after my last match against Portugal’s Shao Jieni. Cheng did not have that luxury and was back in action quickly after her Mixed Doubles Bronze medal match. I have been suffering from a chronic back injury for a long time and have been working on my rehabilitation. But once I stepped into the courts, I did not want to think too much about that anymore, and I was really focused on doing my best for each match,” said Yu Mengyu
The round of 16 marked the end of the road for Liu, but the number 68 seed leaves with her head held high following a show-stopping performance earlier in the day. Facing one of the European continent’s leading figures in Romania’s Bernadette Szocs, Liu recovered from a two games to one deficit to topple the number 14 seed (11-4, 6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-3) on a day she’ll never forget.
“I hadn’t played against Bernadette before and was watching a lot of her past performances on video before our match. I was not really intimated by her and felt really confident. My coach has been providing me with lots of valuable tips and they were useful. She probably couldn’t cope with my aggressive style of play too,” said Liu Juan
The biggest name to exit in the round of 16 was Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, seeded sixth, with the bronze medallist from London 2012 unable to break the defensive wall of Germany’s Han Ying in their head-to-head (13-11, 11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8).
Semi-final tickets up for grabs
Wednesday’s action plays host to eight exciting quarter-final encounters, with the 16 players left standing vying for semi-final tickets across the two singles events.
Play commences at 10.00 local time as the host nation’s Kasumi Ishikawa meets Singapore’s Yu Mengyu in the Women’s Singles. Top seed Chen Meng, China, also features in the first session as she takes on Hong Kong, China’s Doo Hoi Kem at 12.00.
Chen’s compatriot Sun Yingsha is set for a stern test in the form of German defender Han Ying in the highlight fixture of session two at 17.00 before the day rounds off with two cracking quarter-finals from the Men’s Singles. First, Egyptian history maker Omar Assar entertains defending Olympic champion Ma Long at 20.00. Then at 21.00, it’s a Brazil v Germany showdown as Hugo Calderano and Dimitrij Ovtcharov take to the table.
Details for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, including scheduling information can also be accessed here.