Baby Steps 343

Baby Steps 343 RAW

Ch.343 opens with the score for the final set at 5-4. If Takuma breaks Ei-chan, it will be his win. If Ei-chan has frequent errors or bad luck, the match is over. No matter how good one’s condition is, continuing to focus on the opponent’s movements while calmly understanding one’s own situation amidst this much tension is hard. Ei-chan faults on his first serve. Ei-chan takes a deep breath, then calls to mind the contents he’d written in his notebook: the main causes of much of the pressure and the numerous occasions he’d turned those to his advantage. From his personal experience, he images a specific major success that depended on great pressure. He’ll bend like a whip, relaxing moderately, rather than that image of the body stiffening due to pressure. By doing so, he will shift the pressure in order to gain control of the distribution of power…and magnify the impact of his power.

Ei-chan sends the second serve wide. He set up an ideal situation to be able to force Takuma along; however, being able to hold his current state of concentration was something that depends on experience and the definite data he’s been able to get up to now. Takuma returns. As far as the opposing Takuma is concerned, this game is his biggest chance of being able to win if he breaks. At the same time, if he passes it up, a major pinch awaits him. Ei-chan sends the ball to the right side. When Takuma returns it, he goes to the net. He naturally increases his offense by another gear. He gets to the net first to play using his edge in weapons (a volley).

Ei-chan notices Takuma’s position and sinks the ball at Takuma’s feet. A volley is an extremely delicate shot where reflexive motions due to only a minor stimulation of sensitivity lead to immediate errors. Takuma isn’t able to use the center of his racket and his ball is just barely out . 15-0.

On the other hand, if the conditions are satisfied, it’s more overwhelmingly decisive than a ground stroke. Takuma takes the next point with a volley. 15-15.

Takuma thinks he should go to the net faster…if possible, since it’s a return game. The sharpness of the volley of Takuma who escaped from spinning his wheels emotionally has obviously continued to improve. Takuma steadily goes to the net to play. However, the ball slips by him on the side . Takuma chides himself for insufficient effort, telling himself he should go to the net more forcibly.

The match continues. While Takuma’s also aware he’s being too pushy…the attack with its fast level that gives no time to change the pace was a quite a threat to Ei-chan. Takuma goes to the net, planing to compete with a first volley. Ei-chan thinks above is impossible, but if he can control a strong blow at 1/64, he can get the ball past Takuma. Ei-chan succeeds and holds his service. 5-5. Ei-chan welcomes the win but acknowledges the danger in continuing to get pulled into Takuma’s pace.

In Takuma’s service game, he also faults on his first serve. Ei-chan’s strongly aware that in 40% of Takuma’s second serves, Takuma goes forward with a service dash, but also that there are times when Takuma doesn’t go forward. Ei-chan thinks that in serve and volley, deciding in advance whether or not to go to the net should also be decided based on something in the second time. For Ei-chan, not wanting Takuma to go to the net…if Takuma goes to the net on the second serve…he has to give Takuma the impression it’s better not to go to the net. Therefore, even if he’s taking a big risk… Ei-chan pulls off a return ace on Takuma who’d made a service dash. 0-15.

However, Takuma’s thinking is different from the second set. The stability of his serve has started to turn the gears of his entire tennis. He takes the next point with an ace wide clocked at 218 kph. 15-15.

Ei-chan shrugs it off since Takuma converts around 10% of his serves to aces. Of the 50% of the first serves Ei-chan somehow touches, he wants to get a point on around 40% of them. Then from the remaining 40% of Takuma’s second serves, he’ll manage to get a point with over 80% probability. If he can do this, theoretically he can get points on over 50%, so he calculates that he can take a game at some point. Ei-chan admits it won’t go according to his calculations, but it will result in his not hesitating about how he set his goal. Because of that, he can concentrate on his opponent’s movements and his tennis will improve further. Ei-chan uses the data he’s gathered to predict Takuma’s second serve and attacks it thoroughly because the power is slightly less, so the probability of getting a point on Takuma’s second serves is higher than on his first serves. And when he returns Takuma’s first serve, Takuma can put the ball away with a volley. The match continues and Takuma holds. 6-5.

Excessively strong pressure often serves to hamper the normal movement of players. However, the two make it their strength rather than resisting it. They were presenting a threat to their opponent’s serve and holding their own service. In this state of extreme tension, devoting the best in both players accumulated all sorts of mutual conditions because the balance was preserved. There was the aspect of opponent’s play supporting one’s self.

Important factors, such as physical and mental fatigue along with the passage of time to that point, start to take their toll. The game count is 9-9 .

This score, which displayed an eerie balance, was indicating the immediate collapse of this balance, which had remained in this match until the very end, with just a few things. End of chapter.

The title of ch.344 is “Spirituality” or “Mentality.”

Well, there’s the long epic slog. And it looks like sudden death in the next chapter. Right now Ei-chan seems more tired than Takuma; however, he still looks focused and he’s had the stamina training in Florida. And if the title of the next chapter is “mentality,” I’d bet on Ei-chan having more mental strength than Takuma.

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