At the final hurdle they recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat China’s Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, the top seeds (5-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6).
Thus, they secured Japan’s first ever gold medal in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games.
Furthermore, it was the first time they had ever beaten Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen. They had lost all three previous encounters. On the ITTF World Tour, the Chinese duo had prevailed when they met in 2019 in Sweden and at the Grand Finals in China, before in early 2020 repeating the feat in Germany.
The Olympic Games, not a bad place to secure your first win!
The win rather overshadowed the efforts of Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching, the no.3 seeds. They claimed bronze beating the French pairing of Emmanuel Lebesson and Yuan Jia Nan, the no.8 seeds (11-8, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5).
Success for Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching meant it was the third ever medal for Chinese Taipei in the table tennis events at the Olympic Games but the first by players who had developed their skills in Chinese Taipei. Chen Jing won women’s singles silver in Atlanta (1996) and bronze in Sydney (2000), but she was born and bred in China; in fact, she won the women’s singles title at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games when representing China.
No shortage of surprises
Success for Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito was contrary to expectations; similarly, as play advanced in the second round and third rounds in each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events, there were no shortages of surprises.
In men’s singles round two, Russia’s Kirill Skachkov, the no.37 seed, upset the order of merit, he beat Kanak Jha of the United States, the no.21 seed. (11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 0-11, 11-7, 11-4).
One hour later, Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic, his age the same as his no.40 seeded position, responded to the occasion, he overcame Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar, the no.23 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 12-10).
Surprise outcomes but travails for the highest rated in the morning session of play, India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta, the no.20 seed, accounted for Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia, the no.38 seed (2-11, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9).
A most satisfactory result for Sharath Kamal Achanta and even more satisfactory for Egypt’s Omar Assar.
The no.28 seed, he beat Ukraine’s Kou Lei, the no.45 seed (15-13, 11-6, 11-4, 6-11, 8-11, 9-11, 11-4). At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in the same round, Kou Lei had beaten Omar Assar in a similarly closely fought seven games contest (11-9, 9-11, 13-11, 9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8).
Second round matches complete, as the third round commenced, the upsets continued.
Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan, the no.13 seed, accounted for Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.13 seed (9-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-2, 11-8), Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic, the no.18 seed, ended the hopes of Great Britain’s Liam Pitchford, the no.11 seed (11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 12-10).
Defeats but not for the principal names in action.
Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.3 seed, caused Hong Kong more pain. He beat Lam Siu Hang, the no.50 seed (11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 12-10, 12-10), the success coming after Germany’s Timo Boll, the no.8 seed, competing in his sixth consecutive Olympic Games, had ousted Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko, the no.30 seed (7-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-2, 11-1)
Experience counted for the now 40 year old Timo Boll; it also counted in the women’s singles for Australia’s 48 years of age, Jian Fang Lay and Austria’s 39 years old, Liu Jia.
In round two, the no.58 seed, Jian Fang Lay beat Poland’s Li Qian, the no.28 seed and 2018 European champion (11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 12-10, 11-4, 11-4); Liu Jia the no.55 seed, overcame Russia’s Polina Mikhailova, the no.27 seed (8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6, 8-11, 11-5).
Impressive but the most imposing effort was that executed by Liu Juan of the United States, the no.68 seed. She beat Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova, the no.31 seed, in straight games (11-9, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7).
European champions depart
Upsets in women’s singles round two it was the same in round three, two further European champions departed; Canada’s Zhang Mo and Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut, the perpetrators.
Zhang Mo, the no.21 seed, beat Germany’s Petrissa Solja, the no.11 seed (11-7, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 6-11, 8-11, 11-3), the incumbent holder of the continental title. Suthasini Sawettabut the no.22 seed, ousted Elizabeta Samara, the no.15 seed (11-7, 11-6, 4-11, 11-8, 11-2) the 2015 winner.
Success for Suthasini Sawettabut means she becomes the first player ever from Thailand to reach the fourth round of a singles event at an Olympic Games.
Progress for Suthasini Sawettabut, it was the same for the most prominent names on day three, round three duty.
China’s Chen Meng, the top seed, made a most emphatic start to her campaign, she beat Rachel Moret, the no.48 seed, in straight games (11-3, 11-6, 11-2, 11-7).
Somewhat similarly, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.5 seed, beat Orawan Paranang, the no.49 seed, like Suthasini Sawettabut from Thailand (11-5, 5-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-4, 11-8). Meanwhile, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.6 seed, ended the hopes of Spain’s Maria Xiao, the no.43 seed (8-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-3, 11-4).
Plays continues in both the men’s singles and women’s singles events on Tuesday 27th July; at the end of the day, the quarter-finalists in both disciplines will be known.