Baby Steps 318

Baby Steps 318 Raw

Ho-kay, ch.318 starts with Ei-chan’s analysis of Takuma’s serves during the first game. He thinks Takuma appears showy, but he’s at a level where he’s still advancing cautiously. When Ei-chan considers matters after this, he thinks Takuma will do it all the way, so Ei-chan concludes that he has to challenge Takuma at an early and good level.

Coach Aoi says Takuma’s serve is becoming top-level even internationally. But Coach Miura says the reality depends on the day, adding that when Takuma won the Challenger, the probability of his first serve was 74%. Right now, it doesn’t seem bad today, but…

The second game starts. Ei-chan plans to compensate for his disadvantage in power with control and change of pace, in order to maintain the advantage of his serve. The first serve is wide at 170 kph. Takuma returns it. Ei-chan was forced outside, so he hits the ball at an acute angle that ought to create an open court. Surprised, Takuma returns it, but Ei-chan makes an unexpected attack [probably means not to the open court] to take the point. 15-0.

The second serve is a flat at 164 kph. Ei-chan lowers the speed but goes for a tight course to the center. Takuma returns it, thinking it just barely made it in. Ei-chan returns it deep. Again Takuma notes it just barely makes it in. He returns it with a strong blow. Ei-chan counters with a cross, but Takuma puts it away with a drop shot. 15-15.

Coach Aoi notes that Takuma’s strokes have been improving recently. Coach Miura agrees, adding that Takuma seems to be resolved to play as a serve and volleyer, and because of that resolve he’d made sudden progress.

As Takuma prepares to receive, he thinks Ei-chan’s fast serve isn’t actually fast, it just seems strangely fast if you’re not ready for it. If that comes… Ei-chan’s next serve is wide at 188 kph. When it came, Takuma thinks he’ll hit it hard. He does and it goes out. 30-15. Takuma curses his error, especially since he’d successfully predicted the serve.

Ei-chan thinks that was dangerous and that he has to hit a serve that can slip off (Takuma’s?) timing even if it’s read. Takuma thinks he knows that Ei-chan’s someone who plays while thinking of all sorts of details. He doesn’t feel like trying to understand that at all, so he’ll proceed vigorously.

Since the last serve was fast, Takuma predicts the next one will be normal or slow. The serve clocks in at 146 kph, which Takuma judges as slooow. Because of Takuma’s habit, Ei-chan thinks Takuma frequently uses a slice for returns on a high spot to his backhand. Since a slice is hard to sink at the back rather than at the net, Ei-chan goes forward. Yukichi’s surprised that Ei-chan’s doing serve and volley. Seeing Ei-chan at the net, Takuma switches techniques, but the ball goes into the net. 40-15.

Ei-chan again acknowledges the danger, noting that Takuma had been able to quickly convert it to a spin. Then he corrects himself: he’d forced the error. It’s also one way of his to score.

The next serve is a fast (178 kph) slice that escapes outside, but it’s a fault. The second serve is to the center at 161 kph, but with a faster spin than the first serve. After a rally, Ei-chan returns the ball at a cross with 1/64 precision. However, it’s returned by Takuma with a backhand blow—but this also goes out.

So Ei-chan holds his serve. However, he concludes that in this game he’d depended too much on Takuma’s errors.

Title of ch.319: Unbalanced.

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