At the Thayagraj Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday, Tomokazu Harimoto beat Sharath Kamal, who's more than twice his age and has been on the international circuit more than he's been on this world.
He's a step away from becoming the youngest to win a singles title on the ITTF World Tour. Yu Ziyang was 16 when he achieved the feat in 2014. Tomokazu's just 13.
"He's a really good player. He has a long future. There's no doubt he is going to make the top twenty very soon," Sharath was quoted by ESPN India after the defeat.
There's little reason to doubt Sharath's prediction. For table tennis is in Tomokazu's genes. His father, Yu, was a Chinese youth national player. His mother, Ling, has competed at the 1995 World Championships for the Chinese National Team.
Yu and Ling later moved to Japan, where Tomokazu was born. His ascent in table tennis has been quick yet steady. At 3, he took part in an under-8 tournament and finished fourth. At 6, he made it to the last-16 of the Japanese Championships. At the Polish Open in October 2015 he became the youngest player to progress to the first round of an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles event.
His mercurial shrieks on the court is a contrast to his self-description of being "unsociable and shy." He reads Conan comics, loved being in Sweden and admires Fan Zhendong of China.
Table tennis, for Tomokazu, is life. Ranked 69, he's so far beaten Robert Gardos (ranked 46) and Sharath (ranked 62).
A victory in the Under 18 competition during the next Japanese Championships is Tomokazu's immediate goal. But the ultimate target is to win a gold medal when his country hosts the Olympics in 2020.
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