If you’re an avid table tennis player, then it would be no surprise that you pay attention to pro players and their matches.
In fact, you may even have a favorite player that you always watch. Young table tennis players especially may have taken a liking to Tomokazu Harimoto, a 17-year old player from Japan. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the phenomenal face of Japanese table tennis.
Tomokazu Harimoto Background
Before we go into this young player’s impressive career statistics, we’ll take a look at the history behind him. Tomokazu was born June 27, 2003, in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture of Japan. He practically has the game of ping pong flowing through his blood.
His father, Zhang Yu, and mother, Zhang Ling are both former professional table tennis athletes. In fact, his mother represented China at the 43rd World Table Tennis Championships in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
To what we’re sure was nobody’s surprise, Tomokazu began his table tennis training at the age of 2 and has been playing ever since. Something you might not know, he was not originally named Tomokazu Harimoto.
Originally, he was born Zhang Zhihe and both he and his family changed their names once they were naturalized citizens of Japan. They also relocated to Tokyo after this. His personal life is not very well known but he does enjoy reading and baseball.
Medals and Titles Won
As we said earlier, Tomokazu has ping pong running through his blood and is an extremely impressive player. Even with how young he is, he is ranked as the 5th best table tennis player in the entire world.
Looking at the beginning of his career, it certainly seems like he’s an unstoppable table tennis machine. Tomokazu first began competing in tournaments in the first grade. In 2010, he won his first competition, the All-Japan Table Tennis Championships Juniors.
He would continue to win this tournament for the rest of his elementary school years, a whole 6 years of championship wins as a child. But his winning streak wouldn’t stop there. In 2016, when he was almost thirteen, Tomokazu won the under-21 Japan open title.
To do this he had to beat Ho Kwan Kit and Hugo Calderano. These two were very seasoned, professional players and he was able to defeat them and take the title. His victory at this tournament made him the youngest player to ever win an ITTF World Tour under-21 men’s singles title.
That same year, Tomokazu went on to go to the World Championship Table Tennis Championships in Cape Town, South Africa. In a historic moment, the young prodigy went on to win two gold medals.
He won one in men’s singles and one in teams. He also won a silver medal in doubles. The gold medal victory in this championship made him the youngest player to ever win the tournament. In 2017, Tomokazu competed in two more big championships, the India Open and the Asian Championships.
In the Asian Championships, he won bronze for the team even and during the India Open he came close to winning but was ultimately beaten by the defending champion, Dimitrij Ovtcharov. In 2018 Tomokazu once more participates and wins in some pretty big tournaments.
He participated in the Youth Olympics, World Cup, and ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. During the Youth Olympic Games, he managed to win a silver medal in both singles and mixed team events.
During the World Cup, he won silver in the team event and went onto the quarterfinals for singles. In the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, he won gold in singles. In 2019, he did not compete in as many big competitions as the previous year.
Instead, he returned to the World Cup where he would go on to win silver for the singles event. He would return to the World Cup once more in 2020. Unfortunately, he would lose to Ma Long in the semi-finals.
Recently, in 2021, Tomokazu competed in WTT Doha. He was defeated by Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the semi-finals but went on to win the WTT Star contender Event.
Tomokazu has set a lot of records in his career. This due to the fact that he’s such an impressive player at a young age. All of his records have to do with him being the youngest player to win a respective title. The records he currently holds are as follows:
- Youngest to ever win an ITTF World Tour under-21 men’s singles title
- Youngest winner of the boys’ singles titles at the World Junior Championships
- Youngest winner of the ITTF World Tour men’s singles title
- Youngest winner of the men’s singles title at the Japanese National Championships
- Youngest winner for the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals men’s singles title
Tomokazu Harimoto’s Playing Style
A big part of any successful player that directly affects the type of equipment they use is their playing style. The young Japanese prodigy is no different and uses a style that accentuates his strengths.
He has self-described his playstyle as “quick counter-attack” while using a shake-hand style grip. What this means is that he favors his backhand as his main tool and tends to stay close to the table.
Any avid ping pong aficionados will recognize that this playstyle is very fitting to deal with the news trends of the world of table tennis. Tomokazu’s play style allows him to react quickly to the new aggressive playstyles that have become popular.
Tomokazu Harimoto’s Equipment
Knowing Tomokazu’s playstyle, he obviously carries a paddle that compliments his strengths and does its best to make up for any weaknesses. Of course, it’s a custom-made one that he assembles himself for tournament use.
Let’s take a closer look at it to see what makes it so special. His racket blade is actually something that he helped develop with Butterfly. It is truly a special, and quite expensive, table tennis blade that compliments his style.
Specifically, this blade is a modification of the Innerforce Layer ALC. However, this blade has been modified to be slightly larger and has a more moderate speed. Regardless, the paddle racket performs extremely well due to its thickness and overall fairly balanced stats but with a slightly higher spin rating.
Also, this racket has a thickness of 6mm and is made from 7-ply wood. This combination makes the racket excellent for blocking but also for driving powerful shots. It compliments Tomokazu’s counter-attacking style perfectly.
A special feature of this paddle is its use of arylate carbon near the center. Essentially, this helps reduce the vibrations one feels when striking the ball. A decrease in vibration allows you to be more accurate with your shots and gives you more control over the ball.
Of course, no paddle is complete without two rubbers and Tomokazus’ is no different. He uses two different rubbers for the forehand and backhand shots. Each rubber gives him advantages when used in specific situations.
His forehand rubber is the Butterfly Dignics 05. It is a rubber that excels when played close to the table, compliment Tomokazu’s style. It uses an advanced version of Butterfly’s spring sponge technology known as Spring Sponge X.
It has increased elasticity compared to other rubbers. Additionally, the top sheet is specifically engineered to be more abrasive and have increased resistance on the surface. The combination of the Dignics 05 on Tomokazu’s paddle blade makes forehand shots easy for him.
This is because the combination of rubber and blade helps to lessen the vibrations from an opponent’s shot, making it easy to counter. However, this is nothing compared to his strongest tool, the backhand.
For the backhand side of the paddle, Tomokazu uses a Tenergy 05. This rubber uses a terrifying concoction of spring sponge technology, high tension rubber, and a tacky surface to accentuate his backhand strikes.
This is a very popular rubber amongst other world-class players because of how much spin can be applied to the ball. This large amount of spin generated by using this rubber makes Tomokazu’s backhand shots a force to be reckoned with.
This rubber also allows him to effectively use his favored backhand while he’s close to the table or even away from it. As you can see, the combination of the blade with the two rubbers creates a versatile tool for Tomokazu.
It gives him a very prolific advantage when he’s playing close to the table or even a little bit farther. The paddle is absolutely perfect for generating tons of spin and a very respectable amount of speed.
Additionally, this paddle provides a good amount of control due to the dwell time provided by the tackiness.
Tomokazu Harimoto’s Net Worth
Because he is young and has only just begun his professional career, Tomokazu is not the wealthiest table tennis player. However, he has still won some sizeable prize pools from tournaments and has a few sponsorships.
As of right now, Tomokazu Harimoto’s net worth is about a quarter of a million dollars. This has come mostly from tournament wins. Specifically, from a tournament in 2017 and 2018 which were worth $150,000 and $100,000 respectively. He also has a sponsorship with the Butterfly brand, hence why he has his own paddle blade with them.
Why Is Tomokazu So Good?
A question you no doubt have about this young player is just how he is such an amazing player at a young age. He has set records for being the youngest to win certain tournaments and is regarded as one of the best players in the world.
In fact, he is among the top ten. So, how on Earth did this happen? Well, the biggest factor as to how Tomokazu became so good is his father. Zhang Yu (now Yu Harimoto) is a former professional ping pong player and is also Tomokazu’s coach.
Because of his knowledge of the game over the years, Yu created very strict training regiments and essentially dedicated himself and his son to the game of ping pong. The two of them will train for upwards of eight hours every day, even on the weekends!
While the specifics of how Yu trains Tomokazu are not known, it’s clear that it has made the young sportsman nearly perfect. Even Ma Long, the third-best table tennis player in the world has admitted that he was never as good as Tomokazue when he was young.
While Tomokazu’s record-setting wins and various medals are obviously impressive, a closer look at his stats reveals just how good he actually is. Specifically, we will be looking at his matchups against players who are considered to be the best, if not the best, in the entire world.
Tomokazu has repeatedly won against some of the best players ever to walk this Earth. Possibly one of his most impressive stats is how many times he’s won against Vladimir Samsonov. He is an older player from Belarus who formerly held the #1 rank in ping pong in the world.
Tomokazu has a very impressive record when it comes to going against Vladimir, with a total of four victories and zero losses. This is not the only time that Tomokazu has had to face off against the best player and the world.
Most notably, he has gone against famous Chinese players Ling Gaoyuan and Fan Zhendong. Obviously, matches against these famous and impressive players were tough challenges for the young prodigy and he could not win every game against them.
He has faced Lin Gaoyuan a total of six times and won three of those matches. One victory over Gaoyuan was actually during the 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. This made the win that much more impressive and likely a lot sweeter for young Tomokazu.
Interestingly, Tomokazu now ranks higher than Lin. The young Japanese player ranks fourth in the world while Lin ranks fifth. His record against Fan Zhendong is a bit more impressive as he’s faced off against him a few more times.
Tomokazu has gone against the number one ranked player a total of eight times and won four of those matches. The most notable win against Zhendong was during the 2018 ITTF Asian Cup where Tomokazu won in a men’s singles match.
Another impressive victory was against top-ranking German player, Timo Boll. Tomokazu has gone against Timo a total of three times and has won one of the matches. This single victory he has over him was an important one as it helped put the young player on the map.
Tomokazu’s first and only victory over Timo came during the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Czech Open at the singles final. Tomokazu’s victory during this tournament made him the youngest ever to win the title at just over 14 years old.
Additionally, Timo was the top seed of the tournament, making Tomokazu’s victory against him in the finals an impressive feat. However, he would lose to time during the 2018 ITTF Men’s World Cup.
Despite that, the 2017 record really helped cement him as an amazing young player who will no doubt go on to be a true Olympic competitor. Outside of his impressive wins as a singles champion, Tomokazu has a habit of placing high in competitions and is usually a runner-up if he doesn’t win.
Current Rankings and Points
Right now, Tomokazu ranks as the 4th best player in the world. He is the only non-Chinese player out of the top 5 best in the world and has accumulated 8634 points total. His most recent major victory was during the 2020 Hungarian Open.
He was set to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, it was canceled due to the pandemic. However, he has started 2021 off with a great start as he competed in Qatar at the WTT Star Contender event.
There he managed to beat Germany’s Ruwen Filus and won the competition. His teammate, Mima Ito was also able to win the event as well.