Japan’s teen sensation Tomokazu Harimoto cruised into the quarter-finals of the World Table Tennis (WTT) Contender series at the Lusail Sports Arena on Thursday.
The 17-year-old Harimoto, the top seed in the tournament, beat Sangsu Lee of South Korea 11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 11-9 in the last 16. On Wednesday, World No. 5 Harimoto had breezed past Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan 11-9, 11-5, 11-6, avenging the loss that he suffered a year ago to the 40-yaer-old at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Premium Qatar Open.
In the last eight, Harimoto will take on another South Korean Daeseong Cho, who edged out fellow qualifier Andreas Levenko of Austria in a tight contest 11-6, 13-11, 9-11, 4-11, 11-8. Brazil's second seed Hugo Calderano, one of the challengers for the title, beat South Korea's Jaehyun An 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-4.
In other last 16 matches, France’s Simon Gauzy beat Tomislav Pucar of Serbia 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 2-11, 11-6; while Chinese Taipei’s Yun-Ju Lin sailed past India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta 11-6, 11-4, 11-8.
Lin will face Quadri Aruna next, after the Nigeria’s overcame Portugal’s Joao Geraldo in a five-setter 10-12, 12-10, 12-10, 4-11, 11-6. Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s got past Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson 9-11, 11-9, 15-14, 11-4, while Sweden’s Matthias Flack had it easy against compatriot Kristian Karlsson 11-6, 11-7, 11-9.
Meanwhile, the women’s top seed Ito Mima booked her placed in the quarter-finals with a routine win over Nina Mittelham of Germany 11-7, 11-4, 11-9. On Thursday, Mima was taken to five games by Britt Eerland of the Netherlands, the ninth seed before the Japanese eventually prevailed 8-11, 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-4.
Miyuu Kihara joined compatriot Mima in the quarters, with a 11-8, 8-11, 11-1, 11-9 win over Romania’s Bernadette Szocs. In the battle of South Koreans, Haeun Yang brushed past Hyowon Suh 11-4, 11-5, 11-2.
Thailand's Suthasini Sawettabut reached the quarter-finals after overcoming the Ukraine’s Gamma Gaponova 9-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-9, while Singapore's Menguy Yu scored a narrow win over Japan’s Miu Hirano 11-4, 6-11, 11-6, 7-11, 12-10.
In the men's doubles competition, the Korean duo Xu Dasiong and Li Sangshu qualified for the semi-finals after defeating Spain’s Roblas Alvaro and Romanian Ionasco Oviedo. The Koreans will meet Chinese Taipei’s Shan Xian'an and Shang Xian Yuan in the semis. The Iranian doubles pair Noushad al-Amin and Nima al-Amin also qualified for the semi-finals after defeating the Belgian duo Martin Allegro and Florent Lambette.
International Table Tennis Federation chief executive and WTT director Steve Dainton said this event - WTT's first official tournament, following a showcase in Macau last year - marks "the beginning of a very exciting journey for WTT".
The tournament is one of many being played in a Middle East hub, as organisers look to reduce travel during the pandemic. It will be followed by a WTT Star Contender contest from Saturday, while the World Singles Qualification Tournament for Olympics is also being played in Doha this month.
The Contender series of events aims to provide opportunities for future and emerging players on the professional tour. Players can earn ranking points which will allow them to feature in the top tier WTT Champion Series, an exclusive series for the top 32 men’s and women’s players.