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Table tennis: Japan's Harimoto wins 1st title of season at Bulgaria Open

Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto defeats China's Zhao Zihao in the men's final of the Bulgaria Open on Aug. 18, 2019, claiming his first title on the ITTF World Tour this season. (Photo courtesy of the International Table Tennis Federation/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto defeated China's Zhao Zihao in the men's final of the Bulgaria Open on Sunday, claiming his first title on the ITTF World Tour this season.

After losing a close exchange in the fifth game, the top-seeded Harimoto came back strong and wrapped up the contest with his aggressive "chiquita" backhand serve return to beat Zhao 11-6, 12-14, 11-5, 13-11, 13-15, 11-4.

The 16-year-old had been struggling to record a victory this season after becoming the youngest player to win the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals last year.

"I've been practicing hard while feeling frustrated," Harimoto said. "I'm very happy that I was able to finish with this result."

Harimoto said he intends to use the boost of "confidence from this victory" to rack up vital points toward 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualification as the second half of this year's ITTF World Tour continues.

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