Why Tomokazu Harimoto improved so fast

Why Tomokazu Harimoto improved so fast

Welcome back! The weekend is coming. And PingSunday is back. Today, we will talk about the “New Trend in Table Tennis”, part 2. The success of Harimoto Tomokazu. As a table tennis player, have you well prepared for this new trend? Harimoto Tomokazu has changed his equipment to adapt to this trend.

Harimoto Tomokazu is phenomenal in table tennis. He is no doubt, one of the fastest improving players in the table tennis history.

Harimoto Tomokazu vs Zhang Jike

Last week, I’ve talked about Zhang Jike’s playing style. In my opinion, his style is not very adapted for this trend. But many fans didn’t agree with me. In the Hong Kong Open, Zhang Jike lost at Round 32, which is rather disappointing.

And recently, in the China Open, Zhang Jike lost to Harimoto Tomokazu 0-4. So my observation is not totally wrong, right? But today, we won’t focus on Zhang Jike, but we talk about you! Have you well prepared for this trend in table tennis.

Harimoto Tomokazu also won Fan Zhendong and Ma Long.

Well, this trend is not very new. People were talking about since 2016, I think. Since the old ball has been replaced with the new ball, players and coaches have realized the”trend”, the “tendency” of the modern table tennis.

But until now, after more than 2 years that I talk about this. Because, we need to wait about 2-3 years when the new, young generation player has learned this new trend. So now, is the right moment to explain about this.

Harimoto Tomokazu quick backhand attack playing style
Harimoto Tomokazu quick backhand attack playing style

Many young players in China, in Japan, have also trained and modify their style to adapt to this new trend. And the coaches have also notified about this. You can clearly observe the difference right now, in the international competition.

Let’s me explain to you “what is exactly the trend in table tennis right now”.

What is the new trend?

This is what happens to the old ball. It’s much easier to spin the old ball. The old ball is the first generation of 40mm ball or even 38mm ball. With the spin, it will bounce lower, and faster on the 1st bounce.

And this is for the new ball. The new ball is the “40+ non-celluloid ball”. It has the size of about 40 to 40.6 mm. While the old 40 ball is about from 39.5 to 40.5 mm. But the problem is not only the size of the ball.

The new 40+ ball is thicker, and harder also. It has less spin and will bounce higher, and shorter compared to the old ball, like this.

Why this changes the trend of table tennis?

You need to adapt to the new ball.

Recommended 40+ poly balls

One of the best ABS Poly ball in table tennis is

Nowadays, everyone has used 40+ poly balls. In every official tournaments, players play with 40+ poly ball. That’s why in your training sessions, you should also use the same ball to get used to the feeling.

These balls are consistent spin, round, and less prone to be broken during training. STIGA 3 Star 40+ ABS 2nd generation are a big improvement from the 1st generation. Each box contains 3 white balls.

Nittaku premium 3 star is no doubt one of the best 40+ ball on the market. This 40+ Premium ball by Nittaku is a huge improvement and by far the most stable and consistent to date.

In term of quality, you won’t go wrong with Nittaku poly ball. Out of all the plastic balls, it has the best quality control and is the most durable one. These are all perfect round and hard. They are more expensive, but it’s worth to pay extra money, because it is more durable. Cheap ball will break 3 times more often than good 3 stars poly ball.

Adapt to the new trends

There are 3 things here. You should understand this trending and improve your style.

Bounce higher

1st, the ball will bounce higher, so the player does not care much about the spin of the ball. Player now can hit it very soon. They can’t do easily on the old ball, because of the old ball bounce really fast, and spin-dependent. Bounce lower if the ball has topspin, and bounce higher if the ball has underspin. That means it’s much harder to play close the table, with the old ball. But now, it is easier with the new ball.

The new ball has higher trajectory in table tennis
The new ball has a higher trajectory in table tennis

Slower ball & less spin

2nd. The new ball is slower. It gives player more time to react, about 1/3 of a second, not too much but which is enough for the good players to hit the ball easier. The new ball bounces higher, and slower. That’s why now every player returns the ball “aggressively” with the backhand Chiquita flick. It’s much easier now.

Zhang Jike's optimal timing is too late for the new trend in table tennis
Zhang Jike’s optimal timing is too late for the new trend in table tennis

Require of power

And the 3rd change. Because the ball is bigger and harder. So it requires more hitting power, or physical strength of the player, to gain the same amount of speed and spin. So look at here, this is the optimal timing hitting position of Zhang Jike, this timing is good for the old ball. But not good for the new ball.

Harimoto Tomokazu hits sooner, and fit well to the new trend in table tennis
Harimoto Tomokazu hits sooner, and fit well to the new trend in table tennis

Zhang Jike needs to adapt to this trend

Because by doing this, Zhang Jike cannot make the same quality ball like before. He can not finish the point, with the new ball.

If Zhang Jike continues to use the same timing, by hitting the ball here. It’s too late, and his shots have less power. That’s why I said that “Zhang Jike playing style is out-dated to this new trend of table tennis, last week”. But you know, when you played table tennis for more than 20 years, it’s really hard to change your style, change the timing.

Zhang Jike needs to modify his timing to adapt to the new ball
Zhang Jike needs to modify his timing to adapt to the new ball

You have made the “muscle memory”. Zhang Jike did know that, but each time, he forces himself, he made the unforced error. It’s not his nature.

That’s why you have the feeling that Zhang Jike is always “too slow” in the rally.

Look at here, and feel what I say.

The new trend is the player will hit the ball sooner, to “borrow the own speed of the opponent’s ball” to hit, to gain speed. And Harimoto Tomokazu is the one who knows and applies this trend the most successful.

Harimoto Tomokazu is the fastest improving player in the table tennis history
Harimoto Tomokazu is the fastest improving player in the table tennis history

Harimoto Tomokazu’s playing style

Tomokazu’s playing style is the “quick counter-attack” style. As he answered in the ITTF Interview, his main weapon is his backhand. He is rather weak in footwork, unlike the top Chinese player. He stays close to the table, and attack every ball. His playing styles fit very well with the new trend. He has wisely chosen his equipment which fit the close to the table attack style.

Harimoto Tomokazu doing "Cho-lei"
Harimoto Tomokazu doing “Cho-lei”

This is the optimal timing by Harimoto.

The new 40+ ball:

  • – Thicker skin
  • – Larger dimension
  • – Harder
  • – Bounce higher
  • – Less Spin
  • – Less speed
  • – Bounce shorter (same force)

The new trend which profits, well adapted to the new ball:

  • – Hit sooner
  • – Hit faster, quicker
  • – Stay closer to the table
  • – Focus on speed
  • Aggressive attack all of the serve (because the ball is less spin dependent, and bounces higher).
  • – Borrow the opponent speed
  • – Hit on the bounce, on the table
  • – And counter attack every ball
Tomokazu is the youngest Japan champion. The youngest top 10 players in the world ranking
Tomokazu is the youngest Japan champion. The youngest top 10 players in the world ranking

Harimoto’s ranking

Harimoto’s table tennis ranking in the World ranking is impressive. He made huge progress every year.

In 2014, he is ranked only #900. But one year later, he quickly goes up to ranking WR#220. In 2017, he is already in the top 10 strongest table tennis player in the world. And currently, in 2018, he is ranked as WR#6.

Harimoto Tomokazu World Ranking Position
Harimoto Tomokazu World Ranking Position

Harimoto Tomokazu’s parents

His father, coach Yu and his mother, Lin are both former professional table tennis players from Sichuan province. Lin, at the peak of her career, represented China at the 43rd World Table Tennis Championships in Tianjin. Harimoto’s coach is his own father.

Harimoto Tomokazu's equipment - Personal blade and rubber
Harimoto Tomokazu’s equipment – Personal blade and rubber

With the help of his father, Harimoto becomes Japan’s youngest table tennis champion.

His father often told him

“Hit the ball with a form that looks good (for the spectators).”

Why Harimoto Tomokazu is so good?

Just at only 14 years old, and already the top 10 in the World. He won some top Chinese players and including Timo Boll, which is the dream of every table tennis players. So how can he do that? Harimoto Tomokazu’s ranking improves from time to time. Now, he is already at the top 10 World Ranking at only 14 years old.

Tomokazu has trained to become the Champion as the very young age. Quality is more important than the Quantity of training.
Tomokazu has trained to become the Champion as the very young age. Quality is more important than the Quantity of training.

It’s no doubt that his talent, his father, and his training methods. He dedicated his time, his ambition, his love to table tennis. And of course, there are many players who have the same amount of love but won’t succeed like Harimoto.

His training quality is perfect

Because in table tennis, or in any sport, then the “quality of training will decide your level, but not the quantity of training”. You can train for 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years, but your level will go to only a certain level. But Harimoto trains for 8 years, and go to the top level.

His father is his main coach.
His father is his main coach.

And it’s due to his parents. Ex-pro Chinese player, who has the deep understanding in the game. And his father, who has trained Harimoto style, to get this trend, to modify his game, and tune it to this trend.

His father is a gifted coach

His father is a really good coach. Not only good in tactical during matches but good in how to train his son, training methods.

You can see that Harimoto backhand is his main weapon. He has used his backhand to destroy many top players. His backhand is fast, consistent, and high quality. He hits the ball very soon, no matter the incoming spin of the ball.

His forehand is also good, but not as good as his backhand. Chinese forehand technique is much better. If he can improve his forehand, no doubt, in the near future, he can pose a huge threat to the top Chinese player.

Harimoto is using Japanese rubber on his forehand. His father is Chinese, but he didn't use Chinese rubber on his forehand.
Harimoto is using Japanese rubber on his forehand. His father is Chinese, but he didn’t use Chinese rubber on his forehand.

And this is Zhang Jike’s backhand technique, in the area of the old ball. Zhang Jike backhand is one of the best, with the old ball. But can you see the “optimal timing” is different compared to Harimoto?

Zhang Jike’s backhand is much spinnier than Harimoto Tomokazu. His timing is 1/3 second later.

But with the new ball, he has many disadvantages. Less spin, less speed, less powerful attack.

Have you prepared to change? To adapt to this trend? Not only to modify the technique!

But also you need to think about your equipment. Harder rubber, faster blade? bigger blade? or smaller pimple?

He is the new hope for Japan in the next Olympics Tokyo 2020 Table Tennis
He is the new hope for Japan in the next Olympics Tokyo 2020 Table Tennis

That’s it for today. Don’t forget to comment below, and share the video.
See you next time 🙂 EmRatThich.

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3 thoughts on “Why Tomokazu Harimoto improved so fast

  1. The new 40+ poly ball was introduced around 2014-15. I was wondering whether ZJK couldn’t adapt it really, as he played many good matches with this “NEW TREND”. Or its something else?
    I believe it’s ZJK’s physical issues could be the reason. Like Harimoto many players have been adapting the new trend of poly ball since 2014. Thanks a lot for all your critical insights. Regards…Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay

    • Dr. Subhasis, You are right. Zhang Jike has many reason as you cited: physical issues, business, lack of training. As many other table tennis coaches in China, they confirmed that players now need to hit sooner with the new ball. Zhang Jike has changed for this, but it’s very hard for him now at his age.

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