Olympics-Table Tennis-Japan beat Australia to advance to men’s team quarter-finals

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese men’s table tennis trio of Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Tomokazu Harimoto won against Australia’s 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 enter the quarter-finals.

Olympic mixed doubles gold medallist Mizutani and 26-year-old Niwa, two of the trio that earned silver at the 2016 Rio Games, took a strong lead in the doubles match even as the Australian pair Hu and Yan attempted to catch up by alternating between short and long shots.

World number four Harimoto, a surprise exit early on at the men’s singles event, made a strong comeback with a 3-0 victory over Powell in the second and individual match.

“I took a day off after the singles, watching other Olympic sports on TV. That helped me switch my mind,” the Japanese paddler told reporters after winning the team event.

In the final match, Mizutani crushed his opponent Yan 3-0, taking a ten-point lead at the end of the second game.

“Competing at the Tokyo Games is a culmination for me. I want to play every single match as if it’s my last one, with no regrets,” Mizutani told reporters.

In the women’s team, South Korean paddlers Choi Hyojoo and Shin Yubin went neck-and-neck with Poland’s duo Natalia Partyka and Natalia Bajor before managing a narrow 3-2 win in the doubles match.

Jeon Jihee continued to drive momentum in South Korea’s favour, defeating her Polish opponent Li Qian in a 3-0 win sweep in the second match.

In the final match, however, the two teams fought a close battle once again. South Korean teenager Shin, 17, struggled against the 24-year-old Polish paddler Bajor, playing nip-and-tuck through most of the games before Shin took the lead in the seventh game to put it out of reach.

Elsewhere, 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 opponents.

(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)