June 9, 2018 / 3:02 PM / 8 months ago

Japanese teen Harimoto upsets world and Olympic champion Ma

FILE PHOTO - Table Tennis - World Team Table Tennis Championships - Group C - Chinese Taipei v Japan - Halmstad Arena, Halmstad, Sweden - May 1, 2018. Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan reacts after winning the match against Chih-Yuan Chuang of Chinese Taipei. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer/via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Japanese teenager Tomokazu Harimoto stunned reigning world and Olympic champion Ma Long 4-2 in the quarter-finals of the ITTF Japan Open on Saturday.

Harimoto, 14, was thrashed 4-0 in the pair’s previous meeting two years ago but the world number 10 showed plenty of grit to overcome China’s Ma 11-8 11-9 11-7 3-11 2-11 11-6 in front of a packed venue in Kitakyushu, Japan.

“This is a dream come true, Ma Long is my idol, so beating him here in my home country is amazing,” Harimoto said.

After racing to a 3-0 lead, the youngster faced a stern test as Ma pulled two games back. However, Harimoto held his nerve to clinch a memorable victory.

“This is a new stepping stone for me to achieve my goal of becoming Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020,” he added.

World number two Ma, one of the game’s top players in recent decades, was gracious in defeat and hailed Harimoto’s progress.

“In these last few years, through his hard work he has improved a lot and has developed a great deal while playing against all the world’s top players,” the 29-year-old said.

Up next for Harimoto is South Korea’s Lee Sangsu. The second semi-final will see China’s Zhang Jike play German former world number one Timo Boll.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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