TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese men’s table tennis trio of Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Tomokazu Harimoto won against Australians Hu Heming, Yan Xin and David Powell 3-0 in the first round of Monday’s team event , paving the way for the host country to advance to the quarter-finals.
Olympic mixed doubles gold medalist Mizutani and Niwa, 26, two of the trio that won silver at the Rio 2016 Games, took a solid lead in the doubles match even as Australian pair Hu and Yan was trying to catch up by alternating between short and long shots.
World number four Harimoto, who came out surprised at the start of the men’s singles event, made a comeback with a 3-0 victory over Powell in the second individual match.
“I took a day off after the singles, watching other Olympic sports on TV. It helped change my mind,” the Japanese paddler told reporters after winning the event by teams.
In the last game, Mizutani crushed his opponent Yan 3-0, taking a ten-point lead at the end of the second game.
“Being in the Tokyo Games is a highlight for me. I want to play every game like it’s my last, with no regrets,” Mizutani told reporters.
In the women’s squad, South Korean paddlers Choi Hyojoo and Shin Yubin were neck and neck with Polish duo Natalia Partyka and Natalia Bajor before securing a narrow 3-2 victory in the doubles match.
Jeon Jihee continued his streak in favor of South Korea, beating Polish opponent Li Qian in a 3-0 victory in Game 2.
In the final match, however, the two teams once again fought a close battle. South Korean teenager Shin, 17, battled 24-year-old Polish paddler Bajor, playing neck and neck most games before Shin took the lead in Game 7 to put him out of reach.
Elsewhere, the Singaporean trio of Lin Ye, Yu Mengyu and Feng Tianwei secured a spot in the women’s team semi-finals after winning 3-0 against their French rivals.
(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)