Home » Miwa, 14, mirrors brother Tomokazu’s rise; China sweep singles
China Sports

Miwa, 14, mirrors brother Tomokazu’s rise; China sweep singles

Right by the player entrance gate of the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium on a bright afternoon formed a neat yet long queue filled with kids and teens. Waiting inside was 19-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, patiently posing for photographs with each of those awe-struck faces.

Similar scenes played out hours later under darker settings, this time for Miwa Harimoto as the 14-year-old greeted every request with a wide smile and a pose.

Trust the younger sibling to follow the footsteps of her brother. In the off-table modesty and the on-table surge. Miwa added to her singles semi-final run—she took eventual champion Wang Yidi the distance—by going all the way in doubles at the WTT Star Contender Goa on Sunday, rounding off among the standout tournaments of her fast-rising professional career with a title partnering Miyu Nagasaki.

India also happened to be a key pitstop for Tomokazu at 14 when he swept past a sea of seasoned opponents including Sharath Kamal to make the final of the ITTF India Open in 2017 in New Delhi.

Tomokazu has since evolved from an emerging star to an established one, ranked fourth in the world behind three Chinese men. Miwa still has a long way to go and plenty of years for that—she is currently ranked 41—but can look no further than her brother to trace the path to the top.

“Many people compare me to my brother,” Miwa, speaking through a translator, said. “But I just want to play well. My game is not as strong as my brother’s, but I want to go as far as I can. In my heart, I want to beat my brother!”

The two train together at times, but not back home as they reside in different cities. Raised by two former paddlers in Japan—born in China, they obtained Japanese citizenship in 2014 and changed their last name to Harimoto— Miwa picked up the sport after seeing Tomokazu play.

When at home, the siblings “no speak table tennis”, no matter if they grab headlines the world over. Tomokazu is used to it now, riding through the shine of the spotlight and the pressure of living up to a tag for years while also experiencing setbacks along the way (he crashed out in the singles Round of 16 at the home Tokyo Olympics). Miwa, like her brother, has to buckle up.

“She has to go through the same things that I went through,” Tomokazu said of Miwa. “She has to go through a lot of difficulties, a lot losses, and work on that to get better. I hope that we can fight together.”

Fight, and flair in the game, oozed from Miwa throughout this week. The doubles triumph was a sweet reward for the giant-slayer in singles; Miwa beat compatriot Kasumi Ishikawa (ranked 8th) in Round 2, Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu (25th) in Round of 16 and China’s Qian Tianyi (20th) in the quarter-finals.

“Although I’m one of the youngest players in the Japanese team, I feel age doesn’t really matter. My opponent won’t think of me as a child. I believe elder players are strong, so I try and have the same confidence as them,” Miwa said.

The confidence was palpable when Miwa was leading two games to one against Yidi before the top seed summoned all her might and experience to wriggle out of that semi-final tussle. The last hurdle, in comparison, was a breeze for the Chinese world No 4 as Yidi defeated Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching 4-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-8, 11-4) in the best-of-seven final.

Yidi, Jingkun show Chinese might

The 26-year-old Yidi was a late entrant to India’s first WTT event as a replacement to the pull-outs by some top Chinese paddlers before the start. In the company of Ma Lin in the coach’s box—the legendary former paddler is the coach of China’s women’s team—it mattered little in Yidi clinching her second Star Contender title. “Lin knows every player’s mental aspect as well as our respective games very well,” Yidi said.

Still, she couldn’t find the words to summarize the reason behind China’s collective dominance in table tennis, before putting it simply: “Everyone trains hard together, so we all get better and better.”

No better evidence of that than in the men’s final. Liang Jingkun, China’s world No. 7, looked down on many counts only to rise and douse the fire from his countryman Lin Shidong 4-2 (11-6, 9-11, 10-12, 12-10, 12-10, 11-9). The 24th-ranked Shidong, all of 17, was 7-2 up in the fourth game and had two game points in the fifth and yet couldn’t get past the “mentally strong” Jingkun.

The 26-year-old 2021 worlds bronze medallist, though, has little doubt Shidong will be “a main player in our team in the years to come”.

Source : Hindustan Times