Baby Steps Archive

Baby Steps official_guidebook_full_cover

Chapters:

Ch421 ¦ Ch422 ¦ Ch423 ¦ Ch424 ¦ Ch425 ¦ Ch426 ¦ Ch427 ¦ Ch428 ¦ Ch429 ¦

Ch430 ¦ Ch431 ¦ Ch432 ¦ Ch433 ¦ Ch434 ¦ Ch435 ¦ Ch436 ¦ Ch437 ¦ Ch438 ¦

Ch439 ¦ Ch440 ¦ Ch441 ¦ Ch442 ¦ Ch443 ¦ Ch444 ¦ Ch445 ¦ Ch446 ¦ Ch447 ¦

Ch448 ¦ Ch449 ¦ Ch450 ¦

…Discuss translations and interpretations in the comment section.


Chapter 421


… Chapter 421 opens with the chair umpire announcing the score: 0-15.
Ei-chan strikes a triumphant pose!
Ei-chan’s offensive strategy brought a contest of reactions and taken the point from Yoshimichi at Yoshimichi’s #4 setting!!

p01



… Ei-chan wonders how Yoshimichi will change because of this? And hears Yoshimichi talking to himself:
Almost but not quite!
Focus more! It can go better!
Yoshimichi exhales deeply, and when he looks up, his concentration seems more intense.
Seeing Yoshimichi’s expression, Ei-chan thinks Yoshimichi is as intense as usual, without any change. Rather, Ei-chan feels that Yoshimichi is proactively controlling his emotions. In which case…

p02



… Ei-chan decides that his next move is to aggressively shift his receiving position so he is forward of the baseline. He plans to take another point in succession, shake Yoshimichi’s emotions, and break Yoshimichi’s concentration!
Ei-chan’s move seems to pique Yoshimichi, who wonders whether taking the previous point made Ei-chan feel like challenging him. Or is it another feint and Ei-chan will resume his usual position? Or… (Ei-chan’s move seems to have succeeded in forcing Yoshimichi to think instead of just focusing on quashing him.)

p03



… Ei-chan remembers this is his return game. He had been thinking he ought to move back to the edge of his defense zone, but in a certain sense, a return is a contest of reactions!
Yoshimichi decides to handle whatever comes in his usual manner. As Yoshimichi tosses the ball, Ei-chan thinks he has a chance to suddenly get the upper hand if he predicts Yoshimichi’s serve correctly. It’s already a critical moment, so he has to risk it. Going on his data, he predicts the serve will be wide—and is correct!

p04



…Ei-chan returns the ball cross-court with a solid blow. Yoshimichi is surprised that Ei-chan attacked at this point from the front and that the return is deep. Yoshimichi counters with a straight. Ei-chan thinks that Yoshimichi had countered it normally even though Ei-chan had hit a good return. However, Ei-chan believes they’re currently on an even standing…

p05



… so before things turn into a stroke contest… Ei-chan hits a drop shot, hoping to bring about another contest of reactions.
Both players rush to the net, Yoshimichi thinking “That again…”

p06



… Yoshimichi volleys, but craftily floats the ball, the long flight time gives him time to return to the baseline and avoid the contest at the net Ei-chan was aiming for. This move takes Ei-chan by surprise, and it looks like the slow shot was short of where Ei-chan expected the ball to go. He barely manages to volley, since the ball hits the frame of his racket. Ei-chan has sufficient control to send the ball fast to Yoshimichi’s feet…

p07



… and then he plants himself at the net, prepared for another contest of reactions. However, Yoshimichi lobs the ball, and the arc is beyond Ei-chan’s reach: 15-15.

p08



… Ei-chan is impressed by the shot, especially since he thought he had cornered Yoshimichi. He wonders how long this concentration of Yoshimichi will continue. For Yoshimichi’s next serve, Ei-chan predicted wrong and so his response was delayed, and he barely manages to return the serve. Since his return is weak, Yoshimichi easily puts away the ball: 30-15.

p09



… Ei-chan thinks he hasn’t been able to challenge Yoshimichi in a contest of reactions ever since the drop shot. As play continues with an exchange of shots, Ei-chan wonders if there’s nothing he can do. So he tries the high arcing shot that had worked so well against Wei, then runs to the net.

p10



… The audience recognizes the sky-high shot from the match with Wei.

p11



… Ei-chan thinks that because it’s a slow ball, it becomes a contest of reactions where Yoshimichi’s power is halved. Ei-chan observes intently, thinking he will take this point to break Yoshimichi’s concentration. However…

p12



… Ei-chan barely touches Yoshimichi’s shot and doesn’t succeed in returning it: 40-15.
Ei-chan’s frustrated: “This is also no good!”

p13



… Yoshimichi exhales, giving Ei-chan a thoughtful look.
Coach Aoi thinks, today Yoshimichi is too good. It might be that Yoshimichi harbors expectations of Ei-chan, and those expectations are allowing Yoshimichi to maintain his concentration for a longer time than usual. Plus, this is his comeback from injury, so his motivation might also be very high. While play continues with Yoshimichi serving and Ei-chan returning, Aoi concludes that completes the favorable conditions for Yoshimichi, who is good at firing himself up psychologically. Even though Ei-chan is able to compete well enough that it seems his play would work against the normal Yoshimichi… Aoi wonders if the mental strength of a national team member, which Aoi couldn’t overcome, is something that can’t be overcome in any way.

Ei-chan hits a fast forward slice, planning to bring about a drawn-out match.

p14



… He continues to exchange shots with Yoshimichi. Even though he wanted to play at a forward position during a stroke contest, he had moved way back behind the baseline. Since it has come to this…

Yoshimichi hits a winner. The shocked Ei-chan thinks he can’t even push! (Vampirecat: Ei-chan was nicknamed the Pushing King of Kanagawa, if I remember correctly).

p15



Game, Yoshimichi, 5-2.
Audience reactions:
Isn’t this a perfect comeback for Yoshimichi?;
There’s still a long way to go before it’s said he’s reached his physical limits at 30;
If Yoshimichi returns to the national team now, we can dream of making the Best 4 in the Davis Cup!

At the players’ benches, Yoshimichi drinks while Ei-chan scribbles in his notebook.

p16



…Ei-chan wonders if there’s nothing else he hasn’t tried that might work. Is challenging Yoshimichi to a power contest still reckless? If he doesn’t have some strategy to resolve the situation, he’ll be beaten in his next service. If that happens, not only will he lose the set, there will be the super tension of losing the match. He reviews his notes, thinking now that Yoshimichi’s expression has only been #4, Ei-chan has moved back even though he wants to play forward, and he was beaten in a stroke contest. As things stand, he might not be able to change the situation even in his service game. He sketches his current defensive position, noting that if he is too far back (behind the baseline), he can’t respond (to a drop shot or a shot cross-court). He concludes that even his position is no good. If it’s no good even when he moves back, then what should he do? If things are no good in any case, he wants to play at his own (ideal?) defensive position, but…he realizes that “escape” is also no good. So he tells himself to discover a means where he can compete with his own style (typical of him)…a route that will overcome the mental strength of a member of the national team…!
The chair umpire calls Time!

p17



… Yoshimichi gets up to return to the court, but Ei-chan remains seated, bent over his notes. Audience reactions:
Huh? What? Maruo still isn’t moving…?;
He’s concentrating so hard he doesn’t hear…;
I wonder if he’s hit upon some way to challenge (Yoshimichi) next? Yoshimichi stares (apparently at Ei-chan) while hearing the murmurs around him.
Ei-chan continues staring at his notes while mumbling to himself.
End of Chapter 421.

The blurb for the next chapter is “What will he discover with the extreme focus produced by the crisis?!
The title of the next chapter is “Special Skill.”

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


Chapter 422


…Ch.422 opens with Ei-chan considering his notes and telling himself to discover an offensive option where he can play in a typical (to him) manner, an option that would be a basis for his getting the upper hand. Without that, he would just be “running away,” no matter how hard he tries. He definitely can’t defeat someone here (on the national team level) that way. What has produced results up to now are attacks where he skillfully drew Yoshimichi into a contest of speed-reactions. Other than that…

At that point, the chair umpire’s voice penetrates his concentration:
Player Maruo, can you hear me? It’s time.”
Ei-chan jumps to his feet and apologizes, then quickly dash back on court.
The scoreboard show Ei-chan is trailing Yoshimichi in the first set 5-2.

p01



…Audience reactions: Hahaha, he didn’t notice the call?;
In which case, that’s amazing concentration, isn’t it?;
Doesn’t it seem like he has found something else?
Yoshimichi’s taken aback. Not only isn’t Ei-chan broken at this point, but his concentration increased as well.

p02



…As he prepares to serve, Ei-chan plans to turn his serve into a contest of reactions. He is uneasy about it but still decides to try it boldly. He serves wide, then dashes to the net to shorten the distance in the contest of reactions.
Audience: “Serve and volley!”

p03



…However, Yoshimichi anticipated Ei-chan and sends the ball down the line to take the point: 0-15.

Audience comments: That’s an awesome return, you know;
Before that, doesn’t it mean Maruo’s wish to play at the net was exposed?

p04



…Ei-chan, on the other hand, decides to capitalize on Yoshimichi’s correct prediction. He serves to the center—and again rushes the net, shocking Yoshimichi.
Audience reaction: “He’s doing it right again even though he was beaten once…?!

p05



…Yoshimichi returns a body shot to Ei-chan standing at the net. However, Ei-chan quickly respond with a sidestep and volley. The shot is a winner:

p06



… Score: 15-15.
Ei-chan: “Yeah!
Audience: “Whoa, his reactions are good, after all!

Yoshimichi attributes the result to his hesitation over where to aim because Ei-chan’s move was unexpected. Yoshimichi thinks that if Ei-chan finds even a slight possibility, Ei-chan digs his teeth into it and aims for it without letting go. He considers Ei-chan’s resolute behavior to be unusual.

Since his rush to the net worked well, Ei-chan decides to capitalize on that one too.

p07



…He serves wide, then rushes forward. Noticing Ei-chan’s movement, Yoshimichi thinks Ei-chan is doing that a third time in a row, and refuses to allow it. Then, too late, Yoshimichi is surprised to see Ei-chan falling back and stopping at the baseline!

p08



…Yoshimichi returns the serve, but now realizes he was tricked and the ball might be a bit short… and Ei-chan will aim for the chance right away. Ei-chan hits a strong backhand…

p09



…cross-court to take the point: 30-15.

Yoshimichi thinks Ei-chan is good. The crowd cheers as Ei-chan strikes a triumphant pose. Audience reactions:
He was tricked by Maruo’s tactics;
A young gun is challenging a veteran player using strategy.
Ei-chan’s mom looks encouraged.

Coach Aoi sighs in relief, then comments that Ei-chan’s success in getting a point from his position could be big. Aoi thinks the end (future) might not be visible, but generally speaking, Ei-chan is working on the point before him, and taking this one step at a time – that is his “Ei-chan-ness” (personal tennis style) showing.

p10



…Ei-chan serves, thinking that from here he has further options. He takes one step forward, so that he is standing on the baseline instead of his ideal defensive position just behind the baseline. Yoshimichi wonders what Ei-chan intends to do when Ei-chan already faces difficulties even when he was farther back. Yoshimichi returns the ball and a rally ensues.

p11



…Ei-chan acknowledges the higher risk of his new position; however, it also increases the speed contest of reactions. The higher risk also means a higher reward. If a ball comes that is even slightly short/shallow, he will turn it into a chance right away. It also puts pressure on Yoshimichi to hit very deep. His analysis: shallow ball (turn it into a chance right away; can return it with faster timing); deep ball (it becomes difficult to return; the defensive distance contracts (the art shows him needing to use a rising shot)); out (by putting pressure on Yoshimichi to hit shallow balls, the chances of a ball going out increases). It is a super-high-risk/high-return option.

Yoshimichi hits another strong shot, mentally ordering Ei-chan to show him what Ei-chan can do from there (Ei-chan’s position on the baseline). The shot goes out:

p12



40-15.
Ei-chan thinks that if he takes the next point, he’ll hold his serve. Yoshimichi realizes that result was also something Ei-chan was aiming for (inviting the error).

Ei-chan serves, then steps forward, intending to play the point again on the baseline. Yoshimichi returns the ball, then moves back. Ei-chan notes the shift in Yoshimichi’s position and that the return was deep. Ei-chan sends the ball cross-court.

Yoshimichi thinks that with him further back, the physical sensation is the same as up to now and he can aim as he normally does.

p13



…At the same time, Ei-chan thinks that with Yoshimichi further back, Yoshimichi’s defensive distance expands, so he expects Yoshimichi to attack boldly. He watches Yoshimichi closely,

p14



…but Yoshimichi hits a super-strong ball to Ei-chan’s feet. Even though Ei-chan manages to hit the ball, it goes into the net: 40-30.

p15



…Ei-chan dismisses the error as inevitable since he is trying to attack Yoshimichi’s balls from right on the baseline while Yoshimichi is in good condition. Ei-chan serves to the center, still intending to try playing from his present defensive position. However, he tells himself it is currently his service and he will not concede such a risk to equal ground.

p16



…As he chases the ball, he thinks that simply increasing his options is not enough. He needs a more fundamental…offensive weapon! In which case, what can he do now? What, in fact, can he believe in the most in himself right now?

p17



…On the back swing, he sights Yoshimichi’s end of the court, mentally superimposes a 10 x 10 grid on it, and targets a block of four squares by the sideline (apparently Eichan is aiming for a deep outside shot).
End of chapter.

The blurb for the next chapter says “The predicament simplifies his considerations?!”
The title of the next chapter is “Return from the Brink” (or Recovering from a Hopeless Situation).

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Chapter 423


…ch.423 opens with Ei-chan swinging his racket back, considering a weapon that can turn the tables in one shot, and concluding that if he applies his current skill level, his only weapon is precision control. [As a reader, I will argue in addition to his sight precision Eichan also has phenomenal sight to hand coordination that dominates play at the net!]

p01



…Eichan goes down the line with a 4/100 shot!
Unfortunately he doesn’t get the ball in the sweet spot of his racket…

p02



…and his shot goes out: deuce.

p03



…Audience reactions:
Ohh, too bad!
Maruo had suddenly gone for it!

Looking worried, Ei-chan’s mom comments that Ei-chan has been cornered, committing an error at an important point. Coach Aoi is initially dumbstruck, but then states that while Ei-chan has been driven to the brink, Ei-chan may have discovered the very best offensive shot currently possible for him. Ei-chan’s mom asks Aoi for clarification. He explains that there is a basic difference between cross-court and down-the-line shots: to put it simply, a cross is a shot where power is important. (The diagram shows that a down-the-line shot covers a shorter distance and goes over the net at a point where the net is high, while a cross-court shot has a longer distance and goes over a lower point of the net. The longer distance and lower net make it easier to hit a cross-court shot, thus a cross-court shot puts an emphasis on power.)

p04



…Coach Aoi’s explanation continues: Compared to this, sure control becomes important for a down-the-line because of the shorter distance, in addition to going over the net at a higher point. If Ei-chan is able to leverage his reaction and control to hit strong shots down the line from back there (Ei-chan’s position right on the baseline, forward of his ideal position), it will become quite a weapon. However, he cautions that this is all theoretical: adding another weapon isn’t easy.
As Ei-chan prepares to serve, he thinks that he is cornered, but if the ball had just been some centimeters on the inside, it would have worked. The shot had been somewhat unreasonable, but there was a response that seems like it can be turned into a weapon. So he wants to be able to make the best use of it.

p05



…Yoshimichi thinks that if the one just now goes in even once, the situation will change. He wonders if Ei-chan has finally thought up an offensive weapon because Ei-chan is cornered. He concludes that Ei-chan is a guy who becomes more dangerous the more Ei-chan is cornered, and approves: “I like that!”
Ei-chan tosses the ball, planning to look for a chance without rushing, and to aim for it. He serves wide, and Yoshimichi returns with a strong shot cross-court.

p06



…Ei-chan thinks that if there is a chance where he can hit the ball down the line at his home position (slightly behind the baseline)… As a precaution against that ball Ei-chan had hit just now, Yoshimichi moves farther back from the baseline; he considers it another position where he is strong.
As the ball bounces toward Ei-chan, he takes a step forward onto the baseline. Since the 4/100 shot earlier was no good, he goes for 4/81 using the same power as with his earlier down-the-line.

p07



…The ball is inside but bounces short of his target. Ei-chan thinks it won’t go that simply. Yoshimichi returns it with a backhand slice cross-court. Since Ei-chan still has the upper hand, he decides to hit another one down the line right away, this time aiming a bit deeper with 2/81. Again, his shot is short of his target area, although it is deeper than when he hit the 4/81, and Yoshimichi returns it cross-court. Ei-chan concludes his shot wasn’t bad, but this time the power wasn’t enough. If it is not effective with one shot, there is no point to it…

p08



…if he continues, his attacks will become monotonous. He still has the upper hand, though just barely. Since his opponent is that far behind the baseline….
Yoshimichi notes the angle of Ei-chan’s wrist.

p09



…and anticipates Eichan’s drop-shot. Yoshimichi dashes to the net, thinking that if Ei-chan had hit one more down-the-line, he (Yoshimichi) would have been glued back there (way back behind the baseline), but Eichan’s use of a drop shot is overly optimistic.

p10



…Yoshimichi manages to volley and put away the ball: Advantage, Yoshimichi. He strikes a triumphant pose: “Yeah!
Ei-chan wonders if that was too soon for the drop-shot and whether he should have put up with the down-the-line a bit longer. Given the situation, his control and power for the down-the-line is already at his limits.

p11



…He considers trying for a 4/100, resigning himself to self-destruction. He dismisses the thought, because intuitively the earlier 4/100 was a shot that’s beyond his current capability.
He plans to discover an opening that is within the range of his current capability without running away!

p12



…Eichan serves to the center, however, Yoshimichi is already rushing to receive his serve, Eichan realizes Yoshimichi had predicted the center serve.

p13



…Yoshimichi returns the ball to the side (possibly inviting another down-the-line?) with a strong shot. Ei-chan thinks that going for that down-the-line when he doesn’t have the upper hand is difficult, but he’ll pull it together somehow. He hits a forehand slice down the line. Unfortunately, it goes into the net:

p14



First set won by Yoshimichi, 6-2.
Audience reactions:
It’s reasonable that the first set is Yoshimichi’s;
It’s unusual but Maruo self-destructed in the second half.
Hearing this, Aoi disagrees: “It wasn’t like that (self-destruction). Eichan was verifying the maximum extent of his skill precision set for attacking.”

p15



…At the bench, Eichan pours over his notes – thinking he didn’t hold even once. Eichan wonders what else can he do, besides waiting for Yoshimichi’s concentration to break, can he overcome Yoshimichi’s mental strength after all? Yoshimichi looks at Ei-chan, Eichan notices Yoshimichi talking to the chair umpire. Then the chair umpire announces: “Yoshimichi is receiving a medical timeout.”

p16



…Ei-chan is stunned to hear the announcement. Even though, this is Yoshimichi’s comeback from injury, Ei-chan didn’t notice any problem at all in Yoshimichi’s movements. Far from that, Ei-chan considered Yoshimichi’s footwork to be better than usual. During the medical examination of Yoshimichi’s right knee, Yoshimichi flinches. Afterwards, Yoshimichi shakes his head at the chair umpire…

p17



– then the chair umpire announces “Player Yoshimichi requested to withdraw (from the match) due to a knee injury… Therefore, it is determined that this match is player Maruo’s win.”
End of chapter.

The blurb says “The moment of victory, which came without him being able to overcome the barrier…”
The title of the next chapter (424) is “Meaning of the Victory.”

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Chapter 424


…Ch.424 starts with Youko shocked by the announcement that Yoshimichi is defaulting due to his knee injury, and she rushes off to meet him.
Eichan’s mother comments that she didn’t notice Yoshimichi was injured. Coach Aoi explains it was a prior injury, but he didn’t expect it was bad enough for Yoshimichi to default.
Ei-chan is stunned and surprised.

p01 Top of Post



…On court, Yoshimichi approaches Ei-chan and tells him he wanted to play against Ei-chan a bit longer, but he decided to quit before his injury became too serious. He apologizes, but acknowledges the loss. Ei-chan argues that Yoshimichi seemed totally fine up to now, so if they had played one more set…
Eichan doesn’t feel he would have turned the situation around even if Yoshimichi had a handicap, so he feels awkward. He apologizes for his words, explaining he was just surprised. Yoshimichi tells him that if the match would really end after one set, he might have won; however, he never imagined he would be as drained as he is now. He adds that his decision is the result of thinking over a lot of things based on the breadth of his experience, and that he didn’t want to overdo it just because he wanted to win here and now no matter what. He points out that it’s for the sake of the national team.

p02



…Ei-chan is struck by Yoshimichi’s mention of the national team. Yoshimichi offers a handshake, telling Ei-chan to do his best in the next match and addressing him as “Eiichirou.” Ei-chan shakes Yoshimichi’s hand and thanks him.

p03



…Yoshimichi exits the court to applause from the audience and comments of “Yoshimichi-san, thanks for your hard work”
and “Are you okay?”
and “Come back again!”
Ei-chan eyes the scoreboard, thinking that he had released his full power but he was solidly defeated.
Scene switch.
Youko commiserates with Yoshimichi, telling him what happened was unfortunate, but she thinks it was really great that he could decide to default with that fast timing.

p04



…Her comment surprises Yoshimichi. Then he acknowledges her point and adds that he had a bad feeling (about what would happen) if he continued playing. Youko tells him that being able to see the big picture, including himself and everyone (the national team), by doing so is his strong attribute. Yoshimichi looks assured, commenting it (his decision) was good…

p05



…he can still play at least one more time as a member of the national team. Youko retorts it’s natural, pointing out that he is supported by her and tennis fans throughout Japan.
She adds that today is proof that Yoshimichi can still evolve much more.
He remembers how he pushed his performance past the 1 excellent shot in 10.
He agrees that today was really great and proposes they discuss it further over good food.

p06



…Scene switch to Watanabe and Pete entering their court. Watanabe heard about Yoshimichi’s default due to injury—even though Yoshimichi had assured him he was okay prior to the match. Watanabe concludes that the time has come when he can’t afford to be dependent anymore—he has to become the pillar for the national team!

p07



…In which case, for the sake of the national team, his top priority is defeating the one in front of him: Pete Gonzales. Pete is ranked 294th in the world, is 19 years old, weighs 110 kg, and stands 200 cm tall. Watanabe Takatoshi (aka Taka) is ranked 161st in the world, is 26 years old, weighs 75 kg, and stands 183 cm tall.

p08



…As Taka and Pete exchange greetings, Taka thinks he has to give this candidate for the U.S.A. team a beating. He will directly connect defeating players with this sort of good physique when playing overseas to the strengthening of the national team. The chair umpire announces the opening of the quarter-final round match as a 3-set match starting with Pete’s service.
Ei-chan and Aoi arrive to sit in the bleachers. Coach Aoi wonders who Ei-chan’s opponent in the upcoming semifinals will be. He notes that Taka’s physique is better than the average Japanese, but Pete is even bigger.

p09



…He speculates that Ei-chan would have an easier time playing against Pete, whom Ei-chan has defeated once, than against Taka. Ei-chan agrees, but his thoughts fall back to after his match with Yoshimichi, when his mom congratulated him on his win. Ei-chan had argued that he was completely defeated by Yoshimichi, but his mom reminded him it’s said that luck is also part of true ability (something Natchan had mentioned before). Ei-chan know it to be true, but the reality is that he hadn’t been able to form a winning vision at all. Aoi instructs Ei-chan to watch how Taka handles Pete’s serve-and-volley, snapping Ei-chan back to the present.

p10



…Ei-chan scolds himself, telling himself he has to switch over to the next match. Pete serves fast and wide, then rushes to the net.

p11



…Seeing this, Taka calmly sends the ball to Pete’s feet. Pete stoops and volleys; Ei-chan notes Pete’s reactions are good as always.

p12



…A rally ensues with Pete volleying at the net. Ei-chan notes that Taka is minimizing Pete’s physical advantage by sinking the ball, but Pete is handling it considerably better.
Pete volleys with a sharp angle shot. However, Taka manages to intercept it with a drive volley that gets past Pete…

p13



…Score: 0-15.
The crowd cheers.
Coach Aoi comments that there are many Japanese who are inferior to overseas players because of their physique and physical ability, despite having relatively high skills. So in a sense, Taka could be said to be different from Japanese—his physique is comparable (to overseas players) and his physical ability and power could be said to be almost equal. His overall ability is high and he has his sights on going even higher, a promising player that Japan has high hopes for. On the other hand, the accuracy of Pete’s volleys are also considerable.
Ei-chan feels the current Taka is overflowing with internally generated fighting spirit that Taka didn’t have up to now.

p14



…As Taka swings back, he thinks his rank is higher and he mentally orders Pete not to underestimate Japan’s No.4.
Taka hits a winner down the line.
Having begun to pay close attention to the national team, Ei-chan reaches a vague understanding that they release their full power at the critical moment and that they’ve acquired the means to tie it (releasing their full power at the critical moment) to results.

p15



…Play continues late into the afternoon.
Ei-chan is sure that Taka, like Yoshimichi, is playing conscious that he represents Japan. Eichan think they must be converting that national pride into strength.
The ball lands beyond the baseline.
Then the announcement of “Game, set, and match won by Watanabe.
Count: 6-4, 7-6.”
Aoi comments that Ei-chan’s next opponent is Taka, and it was a good thing Ei-chan was able to watch closely.
Looking daunted, Ei-chan agrees…

p16



…Eichan adds that it means his opponent is a member of the national team who is ranked even higher than Yoshimichi.
Coach Aoi concludes that Ei-chan was shaken up by the Yoshimichi match much more than expected.
He tells Ei-chan he is going to make a phone call, and instructs Ei-chan to prepare to go home and then wait for him.
While waiting, Ei-chan notices Krishna playing (probably his 3rd Round match).

p17



…Eichan remembers when Krishna had said Ei-chan could defeat Yoshimichi. He wonders why Krishna said that.
Coach Aoi returns, apologetic about keeping Ei-chan waiting, then tells Ei-chan they’re going to take a roundabout way home. Ei-chan asks whether they’re going somewhere after this. Coach Aoi describes their destination as a short stopover for the sake of defeating the national team.
End of chapter.

The teaser blurb says “Aoi’s tactic for the next match is?!”
The title for the next chapter (425) is “A Different Kind.”

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Chapter 425


…Ch.425 opens at the BodyPlus Sports Supplements office in Sendai where Erik is staring at his monitor.
Erik’s secretary asks how Ei-chan is doing, and Erik laughs at being discovered that he is watching the Keiryo tennis tournament during office hours. He comments at the convenience of being able to watch tennis while working at his desk.
Erik tells his secretary that Ei-chan was lucky to win, but since it is now settled that Ei-chan made it to the semifinals (Best 4 out of 32 professional tennis players) in a ATP Challenger at 18 years of age, his world ranking will advance into the 600s tier.

p01 Top Of Post



…Erik thinks that it is important to see how Ei-chan recovers in this next match. He instructs his secretary to check his schedule for the weekend, she acknowledges his instruction. Ei-chan and Coach Aoi are on a train with Ei-chan asking what coach Aoi meant by preparing for the match with Watanabe, who is on the national team.

p02



…Coach Aoi speculates that Ei-chan’s probably thinking along the lines of “The national team is different, after all.”
Ei-chan gulps at coach Aoi’s accuracy, then reminds him that coach Aoi had said something similar. Coach Aoi agrees but points out that there are various types on the national team. Monma and Yoshimichi have long track records (in tennis and being on the team), so their emotional attachment to the team is particularly strong; however, that doesn’t mean everyone goes that far in staking everything on being a member of the national team. Ei-chan asks about Watanabe specifically.
Coach Aoi replies that Watanabe is one player who suddenly grew after joining the team, but he is only 25 years old and hasn’t been on the team that long, so he is probably a bit different from the veterans. Ei-chan argues that Watanabe has experience playing as a member of the national team (meaning in an official Davis Cup match) and because Watanabe’s world rank is higher than Yoshimichi’s, Watanabe is among the regular players.

p03



…Then Ei-chan gasps at hearing what he is saying. He smacks his cheeks, saying his timidity is no good because however it happened, he won and got another chance to challenge the barrier of the national team. He has to find some way to overcome it in the next match. Coach Aoi notes Ei-chan’s use of the word “barrier” and comments that he too had always been aware of that barrier. But he wonders aloud if there is really such a thing and suggests it might simply be a product of their (his and Ei-chan’s) timidity. Ei-chan considers that possibility, then points out that he has to overcome it. To state the source of his timidity more clearly, he has to overcome the self that is more afraid than he has to be.

p04



…Coach Aoi notes that Ei-chan won’t be ranked with members of the national team right off, but Ei-chan should do something about the trauma of not being able to trump his opponent’s attitude even once in one set. Ei-chan agrees, saying that if he is able to do it…
Coach Aoi comments that there is no guarantee if that would be able to resolve it, but they must find a way.
He then tells Ei-chan they have arrived at their destination.

p05



…The place is a “kickboxing fitness studio,” which Ei-chan guesses is a martial arts gym. Coach Aoi says this is also his first visit. He announces their presence and introduces himself as the coach Aoi who called earlier. The man who responds says he heard about them from his younger brother. Coach Aoi and the man shake hands and exchange greetings, and then coach Aoi prompts Ei-chan, asking if Ei-chan think the man resembles someone.

p06



…Coach Aoi reveals the man is Ike Yuudai, a mixed martial artist and Ike’s (Souji’s) older brother.
Yuudai comments that it seems Ei-chan keeps helping his younger brother. Ei-chan is astounded that Souji’s older brother is a martial artist—in fact, he didn’t know Souji had an older brother!
Eichan marvels at the siblings.

p07



…Yuudai tells coach Aoi that a “meeting of different sports” sounds interesting. Apparently coach Aoi had proposed the meeting during his phone call, because Ei-chan doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Coach Aoi explains that Ei-chan had recently turned pro and is experiencing a baptism by fire, and just when it looks like he is about to overcome it, he was badly beaten today by a veteran from the national team.

p08



…Yuudai comments that recovering from a loss of confidence is a matter of survival no matter where in the professional world. Coach Aoi adds that Ei-chan’s next match is against another member on the national team. They want to conquer the fear; they came for mental training. Yuudai isn’t certain he can help, but he asks permission to bring in someone else, who he describes as his kouhai (junior) and a good guy.

Yuudai calls over Harada, who was Japan’s high-school champion last year and had just turned pro. Since Harada is the same age as Ei-chan, Yuudai hopes Harada might provide some sort of encouragement. Ei-chan’s initial impression is that Harada seems quite gentle, but Harada’s level of strength would be on par with Nabae as the nation’s high school age champ in tennis.

p09



…Harada opens his eyes and smiles, introducing himself as Harada Itsuki—and a daunted Ei-chan revises his initial impression: Harada is scary, after all. Ei-chan responds by introducing himself, and they shake hands.
Coach Aoi kicks off the meeting by reminding Ei-chan that Ei-chan had made it to the Best 4 in the All Japan, so even though their fields are different, the circumstances are similar. He orders Ei-chan to ask anything related to tomorrow’s match without holding back. He explains this is part of training, so Ei-chan should aim directly.

p10



…Ei-chan asks Harada how Harada handles the pressure when his opponent is a strong guy who is top class in Japan. (Harada tells Ei-chan to call him Itsuki.) Harada comments that it is better to speak his thoughts on this. Yuudai agrees, so Harada says there is something he wants to ask first: in the first place, does Ei-chan suffer from pressure in a tennis match?

p11



…Ei-chan is shocked by the question, so Harada clarifies that there is no danger of getting bloody or dying in tennis. A startled Ei-chan agrees but then argues that he can’t make a living as a pro if he doesn’t produce results, and there is also the sense of duty toward the people who support him. Harada accepts this but counters that (their situations) seem completely different. While he is also grateful to the people supporting him, he doesn’t have any leeway at all to think about that sort of thing before and during a match.

p12



…Harada muses that Ei-chan had asked about an opponent who is top class in Japan, which means he is very strong… In Harada’s case, he would be scared before a match and would be imagining the worst-case scenarios. Ei-chan is surprised and asks for clarification: worst, not best, not positive thinking?

Harada flatly rejects the possibility of positive thinking: what sort of positive thing can you think of when you might be physically beaten up by an opponent who is stronger than you?
Have you ever watched martial arts?
Ei-chan apologizes and replies that he hasn’t. However, he explains that as much as possible, he tries to think positively before a match.

Harada notes that when they (fighters) lose, there are times when they lose consciousness from a strangle hold. There are even times when their arms are broken because a joint lock is applied poorly.

p13



…Ei-chan imagines Harada putting him in a strangle hold, and gulps. Harada continues explaining, saying that when they lose because that was done to them, they’re generally staggering, so they reflexively give up out of fear. There are also times when they realize they’re losing without being able to think objectively, even though they can still fight.
That is why he sets tight bonds on the situation, by having to keep imagining the worst beforehand—the worst “how I absolutely won’t tap out because I won’t die even if I’m put in a strangle hold and pass out” or the worst “give up if I’m beaten this badly because I’ll break a bone from a joint lock.” Win or lose, even if a match is 15 minutes, at the longest, he’ll fight with the resolve to surrender if the situation is so bad that he’ll die. If he doesn’t, then when it really happens, he won’t be able to stand it and his body will flee on its own.

p14



…Scribbling in his notebook, Ei-chan acknowledges that there is no such pressure in tennis. He thinks if the type of pressure is different, then the way of coping with it also changes. Harada comments that positive thinking might be better against a strong opponent in tennis, but that is because there is no such danger in tennis. Ei-chan argues that it is not that simple. There is pressure from continuing to lose in consecutive matches during overseas campaigns, particularly the times when he doesn’t have money or confidence…
Eichan boosts himself by finding a positive factor.

p15



…Harada is struck by the mention of consecutive matches overseas, and asks if there are that many. Ei-chan replies that he want to participate in at least 25 major tournaments in a year, surprising Harada. Ei-chan then asks how many martial arts matches Harada competes in a year. Harada replies that he is young, so he has quite a lot: 5 or 6 matches. When Ei-chan notes the “6,” Harada asks if Ei-chan considers that few, but counters that 25 is too many. Ei-chan clarifies that 25 is the number of tournaments; however, the number of matches depends on the outcome (win or lose), so he is at the point where he wants to exceed 70 matches—again surprising Harada.
Harada counters that the density of a single match is completely different. Ei-chan agrees but points out that tennis is a sport with unexpectedly many injuries.

p16



…A player repeatedly does stop-and-dash at full power over 2 hours on average, and he uses the physical strength of the entire body. No matter how much care he takes, there are times in a single match when he gets cramps and loses the ability to move. In reality, Ei-chan won today because his opponent defaulted due to an injury. Harada notes that Ei-chan is aiming for 70 matches of that (Ei-chan’s description of the effort involved) in one year…which naturally comes to roughly to one match every five days.

Ei-chan adds that the locations of the matches are scattered in various corners of different countries all over the world. A top pro travels around 120,000 km in a year while continuing to compete. Harada says he can’t imagine 120,000 km, so Ei-chan draws a comparison to going around the world 3 times. Harada’s so shocked he opens his eyes: “Doesn’t that mean continuously fighting in numerous battles in 1 year?”

p17



…Ei-chan replies that happens when you succeed in professional tennis. Harada wonders whether it is possible to be an average person with that sort of schedule, even before doing things like improving skill and maintaining motivation. Ei-chan brings the conversation back to handling pressure, asking Harada to tell him more about how martial artists handle the pressure from fear.
Harada wonders if that sort of topic is interesting, and Ei-chan replies that he is extremely interested right now, so Harada says he has a good story.
End of chapter.

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


I searched to update the Keiryo semi final Brackets with scores.


Chapter 426


…Ch.426 is titled “Ways of Thinking.”
Harada says that the story he has in mind is the story of a senpai. There was a man who lights incense sticks while in the waiting room before a match. Ei-chan asks why the man does that. Harada’s understanding is that the man is conducting his own funeral. Harada thinks the man achieves a conviction that he has died once by imagining the worst-case scenario. It seems that the man heads to the ring after thinking about his wife and children and crying buckets. Harada thinks this is only being afraid and not a matter of fighting using the motivation of not wanting to die. But Harada considers the man to be the same as himself in the sense that he prepares himself and dealing with the pressure by imagining the worst.

p01 Top Of Post



…Yuudai injects that there are those who do the opposite: they brag before a match. They deliberately puff themselves up and trash-talk their opponent. Yuudai concedes that is also a performance by pros. However, it is embarrassing if they lose. He thinks that, in a sense, it is also a preparation to fall into a difficult situation. Of course, it depends on the person; they all have different ways of fighting pressure.

Ei-chan thinks it is kinda amazing. While they don’t have that many matches, the weight of the pressure they suffer at one time is out of proportion to that of tennis. Harada says he understands that tennis is grueling because of the long stretch of continuous activity, but since there are so many matches, isn’t there an advantage in being able to challenge when you’re comfortable because of that?

p02



…While there are important matches, isn’t it important to just get by somehow when it is not important?
Ei-chan explains how ranking is decided by how good your results are through points in 18 tournaments in a year. He thinks the world tour where you can get lots of points and prize money could be called important tournaments, but there are only around 120 people who can participate in the main draw of those tournaments. You can’t even enter that stage if you don’t continue to win in the lower tour. Ei-chan says that if he thinks he can just do his best in the next match (meaning if he slacks off on this one), his sense is that he won’t be able to emerge from the lowest level.

p03



…Harada concludes that tennis also has a gentle fear that can continue to strangle you; he considers it slightly unpleasant. Ei-chan protests that while it is difficult, it is preferable to actually being strangled. Coach Aoi laughs and points out there is the element of being suited or not suited to it. Yuudai comments that he heard from Souji that the tennis world is harsh, but he notes that Ei-chan has forged his body thoroughly. Ei-chan thanks him for the compliment and adds that is thanks to the protein supplements supplied by his sponsor.

p04



…However, Yuudai concludes that it is more a matter of whether or not one can put their life at risk, and not the body (physical)—and he adds that doesn’t seem possible for Ei-chan. Yuudai explains that they fight using power and technique in martial arts; however, what is important in the end is how far one can consider winning through the will to die. He doesn’t know how it is in tennis, but in their (martial arts) world, the scary ones are the guys who are seriously willing to die. Those guys have a chance of turning things around, no matter how large the gap in ability. He points out that tennis is also a one-on-one match, so there might be similarities.

p05



… He suggests Ei-chan try things their way at least once: go at it prepared to die.

p06



…Harada immediately invites Ei-chan to try it out right then and there. Ei-chan sounds like he is about to accept the invitation, but Aoi quickly intervenes, reminding Ei-chan about the important match tomorrow.
Ei-chan and Aoi take their leave of Yuudai and Harada. Aoi thanks Yuudai, who replies that he is glad for the consultation because they also seem to have gotten something out of it. Coach Aoi agrees it was worthwhile and suggests they do it again. As coach Aoi and Ei-chan walk off, Aoi prompts Ei-chan for his impressions. Ei-chan comments that he is glad to think he is suited for tennis. Aoi laughs and agrees.

p07



…Ei-chan adds that he also feels a bit easier. By learning there are all sorts of pressure, he is able to think that the pressure in tennis of overcoming someone who supports Japan is nothing special. And maybe because he was able to talk with people who fight with the pressure of dying, he feels they aren’t that different. But since he plays tennis, where death doesn’t figure into the outcome, Eichan feels he can try much harder than in the past. Of course it doesn’t mean he’s no longer scared, but he can imagine coming up with more realistic strategies for this fear (probably referring to going up against a member of the national team, since the bubble is beside Watanabe’s image)…in which case (flashback to Yuudai suggesting Ei-chan go at it prepared to die).

p08



…Ei-chan [asking?] coach Aoi [how is it] possible to play tennis prepared to die?

p09



…Scene switch to Natchan’s bedroom. Her phone display shows she sent message to Ei-chan, congratulating him on his win, telling him she is definitely going tomorrow to cheer him on, and that she will cheer for him with all her might because she won’t be able to watch his matches for quite a while. Lying in bed, she exhales, thinking that she had more or less been able to meet with friends, and ship her packages. She marvels that she’s really leaving for America the day after tomorrow. Her phone rings.

p10



…When she checks, it is a message from Ei-chan [Note: Eichan messages display the tennis racket avatar] thanking her; then he asks her to wait for him after his match ends since the only time they can meet at leisure is tomorrow; and then he adds that he is going to play in a way that puts his life at risk in tomorrow’s match, so he asks her to support him.
Natchan puzzles over the remark: “put life at risk.”

p11



…Scene switch to the next day at the semifinals of the Keiryo Challenger. Aloisi defeated number one seed Williams in the quarterfinals—6-1, 6-4.
Krishna won his quarterfinal match against Valkanis, 6-3, 6-3; thus Aloisi will face Krishna in the semi-final, while Ei-chan will face Watanabe, who defeated Pete 6-4, 7-6.

p12



…As Watanabe stretches, Asano comments that as the final holdout for the national team, Watanabe must not lose. Watanabe replies that, frankly, that sort of thing doesn’t matter to him. Asano notes that Watanabe is cool, but adds this sort of guy is also necessary to the team. Watanabe speculates that it is better for Asano as a coach to cultivate a young sprout. Asano is all shocked: “What are you saying?! The team trains the strongest guys at that time!” He points out that in that sense, Ei-chan was no match for Yoshimichi yesterday. But if Ei-chan defeats Watanabe today, that is a different story. Watanabe gives Asano a flat look and tells him he won’t lose.

p13



…Asano grins excitedly and comments that Watanabe is reliable. He orders Watanabe to show him a fight that is typical of a member on the national team.
The audience start arriving, among them are Ei-chan’s parents with his father commenting that he can finally watch Ei-chan’s match. Erik and his secretary are there too.

p14



…At the bleachers, Kageyama and Sasaki greet Natchan, who tells them they somehow look like college students now. Natchan confirms that her flight is tomorrow, after Sasaki asks for confirmation; Sasaki tells her it’s a good thing they could meet today and asks about Ei-chan’s condition. Natchan ventures the opinion that it is probably…not bad.

In the waiting room, Ei-chan is listening to music and reviewing the notes in his Tennis 80 notebook. He takes out the earbuds as Aoi tells him it’s nearly time (for the match).

p15



…When Ei-chan and Watanabe walk to the court, the audience is already fired up:
They’re here!;
Watanabeeeeh! Defeat Yoshimichi’s opponent!;
Maruooooh, get to the finals!

Coach Aoi greets Ei-chan’s parents as he sits down. Ei-chan’s dad expresses his appreciation for Aoi’s help. Coach Aoi thinks it would be good if Ei-chan can go in with a good feeling, having capitalized on yesterday, though.

p16



p17



…As Ei-chan walks, he wonders how far he can risk his life in tennis, where you won’t die.
End of chapter.

The teaser blurb says “How effective will the mental training be?!”
The title of the next chapter is “How to Risk One’s Life.”

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


Chapter 427


…Ch.427 opens with Watanabe classifying Ei-chan as similar to Nabae, whom he lost to in the All Japan. Watanabe thinks that if he is to make the best of that loss, he will use power as his base, but hold back on his full power. On top of having grasped the strategy of being challenged, he will decide objectively on the allocation of the power he uses. (Apparently Nabae defeated Watanabe with strategy, causing the confused or fatigued Watanabe to commit too many errors.) Watanabe tells himself that even before being a member on the national team, a 26-year-old pro ranked 161st in the world doesn’t have the time to lose to someone below him here.
The chair umpire had apparently flipped a coin and Watanabe won the coin toss, so Watanabe chose to serve, while Ei-chan chose to receive on the side of the court he (Ei-chan) is in right now.

p01



…The two players shake hands and exchange greetings. Then they head to their respective ends of the court while the chair umpire takes his seat. Ei-chan exhales, apparently in relief because he doesn’t feel that strange unease he had during the match with Yoshimichi (when Ei-chan was thrown off by Yoshimichi’s friendliness?), he contemplates that hearing the stories about martial artists risking their lives in matches might have had a big effect. In addition to that, he was able to prepare better than usual.

p02



…Flashback to Ei-chan’s bedroom yesterday. Eichan called Nabae, wanting Nabae to share everything he knows about Watanabe. Nabae detailed the match from the All Japan Championship Tournament. [* vol 38, Ch357 when Watanabe, with superior power lost to Nabae’s cunning strategy.]
Nabae was overwhelmed in physical ability at the start (of the match), he then compensated by slowing the tempo and pushing (holding out/hanging on). After that, he accelerated the tempo and went to the net, and managed to hold on, switching tactics before he could be beaten. Nabae think that Watanabe doesn’t feel he (Watanabe) had been beaten in real ability. Nabae added that as things are now, he believes it (defeating Watanabe) would be difficult, and he is preparing himself so that he won’t be inferior in power next time. He offered to send Ei-chan his data from that time (the match with Watanabe), which Ei-chan eagerly accepted. End of flashback.

p03



…As Ei-chan and Watanabe exchange shots to warm up, Ei-chan thinks that in his present condition, he too can’t defeat Watanabe in physical ability; but because Nabae defeated Watanabe, then there is a way. Thanks to Nabae’s data (the art shows the paths of multiple points, apparently from Nabae’s match with Watanabe), which Ei-chan analyzed to create hypotheses based on ideas from someone else. However, if he is risking his life in this match, even that (creating those hypotheses) isn’t enough.

p04



…The chair umpire announces the start of the semifinals as a best-of-three-sets match with Watanabe to serve. Anticipation mounts from Eichan’s parents with coach Aoi, friends, sponsor (Erik), and Asano pictured with someone.

p05



…As Watanabe prepares to serve, he simultaneously plans to certainly restrain Ei-chan with power, he will get a general view to see how
much power he needs. (Hee-hee. Considering Yoshimichi was forced to play at 100% and keep himself at the level of top-class players like Sanchez, Watanabe will need full power.)

p06



…Watanabe serves wide.
Ei-chan returns the ball cross-court, noting the serve was strong, as expected. Setting up to hit the ball, Watanabe concedes Ei-chan’s return is a good one; however, he plans to gradually drive Ei-chan into a situation where the difference in their power levels manifests.

p07



…Flashback to Coach Aoi and Ei-chan as they were making their way home after the sports meeting at the gym yesterday. Aoi commented that it is well and good to say something like “Play with a willingness to die,” but it is no hardship when he can plan on doing it. Coach Aoi asked what sort of image Ei-chan had of “willingness to die.” Ei-chan replied that his main image was from the saying “a cornered rat will bite a cat.” Coach Aoi interprets this as “baring your fangs when you’re about to be killed by a stronger opponent.” Ei-chan explained that he couldn’t come up with something more practical, based on his own experience, because he has never been in a situation where he is likely to die.

p08



…Coach Aoi suggested, “What about that?” Ei-chan is clueless about “That?” so Aoi pointed out it had been mentioned before, “that” is when a person was about to be run down by a car but miraculously escaped harm, the survivor described things looked to be in slow motion. Ei-chan immediately connected this to the zone—and speculated that it meant if he develops the willingness to die, then he would approach the zone. However, he concluded that it isn’t something that could be done by planning on it. Aoi agreed, but noted that Ei-chan has experienced that zone, which might serve as a hint for an Ei-chan style of “willingness to die.” First of all, Ei-chan can only try playing tennis where his life is at risk. End of flashback.

p09



…Ei-chan thinks that if his life is really at risk, then he doesn’t have time to stint on (not use) the weapons he has. He decides to explore the strategy based on what he hypothesized yesterday…

p10



…—then hits the ball down the line with 4/81 sight targeting!

p11



…The shot is a winner that takes everyone, even Ei-chan, by surprise!
Score: 0-15.

p12



…Watanabe wonders about that sudden attack. He thinks that if Ei-chan really aimed for that shot just now, then what would follow…
Watanabe concludes that Ei-chan’s errors will build up and his play will become monotonous, so in the end, it is still to Watanabe’s advantage. Ei-chan, on the other hand, marvels that the response was completely different from yesterday… [Readers speculate on why Eichan feels different, is he close to the zone or is it because he is rested, prepared and calm knowing he has chosen to risk life…]

p13



…Ei-chan thinks that the contradiction between “I will risk my life” and “I won’t die” (in tennis) is becoming an impetus for him to be able to play with all his heart. If that is really the case…
Coach Aoi notes that Ei-chan is good today…but it is a matter of how far that “good” will take Ei-chan.
Watanabe’s next serve is to the center. Ei-chan considers it a powerful serve, but he returns it confidently.

p14



…Watanabe responds with a strong backhand, planning on keeping a watch for a deep ball until the critical moment when he will use his power. Ei-chan thinks that if his life is at risk, then now – while his opponent isn’t ready he will attack with his weapons.

p15



…Aiming for the corner, he hits a backhand down the line with 2/81 targeting.

p16



…It’s another winner!
Score: 0-30.

p17



…Audience reactions: Whoa, that’s two consecutive winners down the line all of a sudden!
He clinched it quite easily, you know
He is also lucky, huh;
Will he keep doing that sort of thing?
However, it’s unlike Maruo, you know.
Japan’s national team assistant coach Asano is also surprised, thinking “Oh…that’s awesome!”
Ei-chan thinks: “I can go with this…maybe.”
End of chapter.

The teaser blurb says “His opponent is higher ranked and a member of the national team…How far can he go with this?!”

The title of the next chapter can be translated as “Forced Attack” or “Drastic Measures” or “Hard-line Tactics.”

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents

 


Chapter 428

Drastic Measures

p01


p02



p03



…[ Given what happened in this chapter, Vampirecat translated the title as “Hard-line Tactics.” ]

Ch.428 opens with Ei-chan thinking that this time the ball accurately landed in the spot he aimed at with 2/81 targeting, so it’s probably more than merely being in good condition. Eichan feels this is a very good fit to Watanabe’s (wary) start to the match, which is more low-powered than he expected.

p04



…Watanabe thinks Ei-chan’s quite different from yesterday. At a glance, the two consecutive winners were unreasonable and he was taken in. However, when power and stability go together, it’s naturally hard for them to coexist. He concludes that if it’s just a mere fluke, it’s better not to put an end to it (probably because he expects Ei-chan to commit errors). He serves to the center, and Ei-chan returns the ball to a corner.

p05



…Ei-chan wonders how Watanabe will attack. Since it’s Watanabe’s service and Ei-chan expects Watanabe to want to attack using power now, Watanabe should naturally go for a strong shot cross-court, which would be effective. However, a cross would present Ei-chan with a chance to attack by hitting the ball down the line. Which means Ei-chan will understand Watanabe’s strategy with this one shot.
Watanabe debates whether to attack or to hold back for now…

p06



…Watanabe finally hits the ball down the line. Because it’s not a cross, Ei-chan concludes that Watanabe is wary of Ei-chan’s down-the-line: in other words, Eichan’s down-the-line holds true as a weapon. His notes show contingency planning, “in the event where the opponent is aware of and wary of my down-the-line”:
1) hit a strong shot cross-court → attack in the opposite direction using power and course;
2) control a short ball cross-court → attack in the extreme opposite direction using course;
3) a slow ball deep and cross-court → take over the timing.

Since he won’t die even if he makes an error here… !

p07



…Ei-chan decides to send the ball cross-court in a power contest. Watanabe barely manages to return it with a backhand; he looks over his shoulder, surprised that Ei-chan went for a power contest here. Ei-chan notes he has taken the upper hand from Watanabe!

p08



…he decides to continue boldly—and hits a drop shot.
Surprising Watanabe as well as Coach Aoi, Natchan, and Asano,

p09



… to take the point: 0-40.
Ei-chan mentally exults that he did it! Without dropping a point because he made Watanabe wary of his weapon (down-the-line). Audience reactions:
Suddenly a triple break point?!
Isn’t Maruo awesome today?
But it’s still just the start so…
Natchan comments that Ei-chan might be really good today, as Kageyama and Sasaki gape in surprise. Ei-chan’s parents are also taken aback, but Aoi wonders how things will go from now on.
Watanabe questions whether he had been too wary of Ei-chan’s down-the-line. However, he tells himself there’s no way he wouldn’t be wary of it because he had been beaten that way twice. Nevertheless… he concludes that this is bad: it’s a pattern where he is suddenly in deep cow-dung.

p10



…Watanabe breathes deeply and exhales, flexes fists and his fingers, then dismisses the situation as “it can’t be helped.” He thinks that it’s better to basically return to the starting point for once at a time like this. As Watanabe prepares to serve, Ei-chan is fiddling with the strings of his racket. Ei-chan notes he has 3 break chances. However, this sort of moment when a superior opponent is likely to get serious is really scary. It’s for a time like this that he imitated Itsuki (Harada) and found how to deal with this fearful pressure.

p11



…In his notes, Eichan simulated the worst-case scenarios that he thought of completely with the intention of risking his life: how would he be forced to surrender using power, and how he should counter those. (By doing this, Ei-chan already has potential solutions thought up, so he won’t freeze because he is racking his brain for new strategies!) Ei-chan thinks that here it is important that he won’t die even though he is risking his life.
Watanabe serves wide.

p12



…Ei-chan overtakes the ball and cuts in to meet it with a forehand. Seeing this, Watanabe wonders whether Ei-chan is going for another down-the-line. On the back swing, Ei-chan thinks that even with a powerful serve… Telling himself to calm down, he watches Watanabe closely…

p13



…Ei-chan notices Watanabe starting to sprint for the corner—and hits the strong shot cross-court to the opposite corner:

p14



Game Maruo, 1-0.
Audience reactions:
Seriously?!
Another winner!

Ei-chan makes a fist, thinking “Here it is…! A break!”
Moreover, he could see perfectly—not just Watanabe’s movements but even his state of mind.
Watanabe thinks he’s suddenly being made to rush about. As they switch courts, he tells himself to calm down and reset. He knows that Ei-chan’s down-the-line is good, so it is all right to accept the situation if he is beaten there. However, it’s not good that a point was taken from him because he was afraid of it (Ei-chan’s down-the-line). If he can smoothly modify this awareness, then he can change the situation.

p15



…The result of the game confirms for Ei-chan that the basic way of competing is the “risk my life” mode, which he prepared. However, he will boldly switch over to “my life isn’t at stake” mode only at the times when it is hard to decide (this is not clear whether he means decide his shot or decide something else). “Taking a big bite” is okay (apparently for “my life isn’t at stake” mode).

Ei-chan serves wide, and Watanabe returns the ball cross-court. Ei-chan counters with spin to prevent Watanabe from hitting a strong shot.
Surprise!

p16



p17



… Ei-chan is surprised – Watanabe skipped forward to meet the ball with a strong return shot that Ei-chan fails to touch. 0-15.
Audience reaction: “As expected of Watanabe! A fast attack with power and technique!

Ei-chan notes that by using footwork, Watanabe easily matched the impact point for the ball. Watanabe thinks that even if the ball is slow, he can hammer it if he can get to a high impact point.

Exhaling in preparation to serve, Ei-chan thinks that Watanabe has a strong torso as well as technique, so if Ei-chan’s ball is even slightly shallow, Watanabe will hammer it.
To prevent that Ei-chan has prepared as many patterns as possible for fighting a power contest. Thinking this, he sends his serve straight at Watanabe’s body.

p18



…Watanabe was thrown off form by the body shot, though he managed to return it. Noticing Watanabe is off balance, Ei-chan, without any delay, goes for another strong shot down the line!

p19


…Watanabe was heading for the open court, but managed to return to the corner to get his strings on the ball. However, his shot goes into the net:
15-15.

Stunned silence from the audience. After a moment of shock, Asano looks excited, thinking that this style of fighting against Watanabe, who is a member of the national team… goes beyond the level where you would say Ei-chan is merely doing well.

p20



…Ei-chan also looks stunned. He thinks it was perfect…
this is similar to when he entered the zone… except that unlike that time, it feels more real…
Ei-chan looks transcendent.
However, Watanabe looks like he has decided to get extremely serious and stop trying to conserve his strength.
End of chapter 428.

The teaser blurb says:
“The Premonition of an Awakening to the Ideal Build-up…?!”

The title of the next chapter can be translated as “Regimentation” (imposing order or discipline) or “Rallying” (mobilizing for a common cause) or “Concentration” (gathering together).

p21 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


Chapter 429

These chapter summaries discussed may miss some nuanced details in translation, please share your interpretation and/or corrections in the comments.

 


…CH.429 begins with Eichan’s serve, recall his last shot tied the score at 15-all. Given the events in this chapter, Vampirecat translated the title as “Pulling Together” (assembling).

p01



…The chapter starts with Ei-chan thinking that the previous time he experienced the zone, it was a curious sensation – but it’s different today, as if a latent power had manifested.
Ei-chan is astonished, but understands what he did, and suspects the sensation for the zone may steadily change from now on if he grows (probably as a player). However, since he can lose his grasp on the zone if he thinks about it deeply, he decides not to pay any more attention to it than he has now.

p02



…Ei-chan serves wide, intent on “defending his life” from a power contest. Watanabe considers the angle of the serve to be a good course; however, he changes the flow of the game by attacking with power, hitting a strong shot that deprives Ei-chan of the advantage of his serve. Ei-chan is forced to return the ball cross-court.

p03



…Watanabe decides to use power to hit the ball to the center, a strategy that can eliminate Ei-chan’s down-the-line weapon. Ei-chan, on the other hand, wants to be able to connect his response to an attack to his down-the-line weapon. Ei-chan recalls the options he previously worked out for a situation where he is pressured into hitting crosses by his opponent:

p04



1) be the one to hit a cross (in a power contest)
2) leave an open court to invite one (a cross that will let him hit a down-the-line); and
3) continue to hit deep and wait (at some point he’ll get a shot that he won’t hit as a cross).
Ei-chan remembers that he learned from Wei to deliberately choose the more difficult option for the self that unconsciously runs away when he is in a difficult and unfavorable situation. Because of that, he settles on the 3rd and more difficult option and survive somehow until a cross comes.

p05



…Watanabe hits a strong shot down the line and deep. Calling to mind a fast musical rhythm, Ei-chan overcomes the difficulty to return the ball cross-court with a rising shot from his ideal defensive position.

p06



…Noting that Ei-chan returned the ball as it was, Watanabe sends the ball down the line, and Ei-chan again returns it cross-court, still intent on enduring until Watanabe hits a cross. Ei-chan thinks he’ll defend his life without neglecting to prepare so he can wield his weapon anytime!

A rally ensues. Watanabe thinks that if he avoids a cross too much, his play will become monotonous and he won’t expand his advantage.

p07



…So he decides to ramp up the power on his next shot—and hits a cross. Ei-chan’s response to the cross is so fast that Watanabe suspects Ei-chan had been waiting for it. Rushing to the corner, Watanabe wonders if another down-the-line is coming. However, he remembers how Ei-chan had beaten him with a cross, and reminds himself not to be too wary of a down-the-line.

p08



…At that point, he freezes, caught between the possibilities of a down-the-line and a cross. Asano notices that Watanabe’s motion had stopped.

p09



…Seeing Watanabe’s posture, Ei-chan decides that it will go well: he can overcome a national team member’s mental strength, which he had been afraid of with his timid self. He boldly hits a strong backhand down the line with 1/100 targeting — and Watanabe fails to touch it!

p10



…Score 30-15.
The audience notes that Ei-chan hit another winner down the line! Ei-chan thinks it’s a point where he took back the upper hand after he had been suppressed by Watanabe’s power tennis!

p11



…Play continues.
Ei-chan thinks that if that’s the case, then while his opponent in on the lookout for his down-the-line… he sends the ball on a sharp angle, and rushes to the net.
Watanabe chases the ball past the doubles sideline and manages to return the ball. However, near the net Ei-chan volleys to take the point: 40-15.

p12



…Play continues. Ei-chan thinks that when he can perfectly perform everything he planned, his game goes this well. He realizes this match is now pulling together all his training and experience up to this point since turning pro, including everything he gained in this tournament.

p13



…Watanabe thinks that anything can happen in a match. Even so…there’s no excuse for him to be beaten this much. Having difficulty with and being beaten by a youngster is something that often happens, but if he’s being overwhelmed this much, the cause also lies in him.
As Watanabe swings back to return the ball…

p14



…he decides not to rely only on power. Watanabe hits a strong shot down the line and dashes forward to play at the net. (Vampirecat: Obviously, Watanabe isn’t used to playing at the net since the strong shot means he has less time to get to the net.) However, he sees Ei-chan cut in front of the ball preparing to return it with the strong forehand!!

p15



…Watanabe realizes Ei-chan can hit a down-the-line or a cross… concluding that if he turns back at this point, the ball will get past him either way, so he commits to chasing a down-the-line. Eichan observes intensely.

p16



…Seeing Watanabe’s movement, Ei-chan sends the ball cross-court: Game, Maruo, 2-0.
Natchan thinks the match seems to be going well…

p17



…As Ei-chan strikes a triumphant pose, Natchan is sure he’ll win…which means they can’t meet tomorrow (when she leaves for the States) because he will advance to the final round.
Chapter 429 ends.

The teaser blurb says “Ei-chan’s growth backs Natsu’s resignation (probably to not being able to meet tomorrow).”
The title for the next chapter is “Full Capacity.”

Vampirecat: Hopefully, this refers to Ei-chan, but it might mean Watanabe is going to pull out the stops and make a comeback.

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


Chapter 430

Full Capacity.”


Ch430 begins, Ei-chan leads the first set 2-0 with Watanabe preparing to serve game three. Watanabe eyes Ei-chan while thinking though this is merely the start of the match, this situation is completely unfavorable… It’s as if Ei-chan is a different person from Yoshimichi’s opponent yesterday. Watanabe’s first serve faults into the net. Ei-chan looks surprised.

p01



… Watanabe reconsiders his conclusion, speculating that there might not actually be a big difference (between Ei-chan yesterday and today): it’s a matter of Ei-chan reaching the centimeters he didn’t reach yesterday and the balls that didn’t go in by centimeters are now going in… and the tactics that didn’t work are now working. (Watanabe appears to be deeply absorbed into his gloomy thoughts, rather than focused on his opponent. Did Ei-chan inch closer to the outside in anticipation of the wide serve?) As Watanabe bounces the ball before launching his second serve, he concludes it’s only a slight change. Assuming there is this sort of change in one day, it’s mental.

p02



…Watanabe doesn’t know what happened yesterday, but it (the mental change) is something he has experienced himself. Watanabe launch his second serve wide, and is surprised!! (Not sure why the major surprise, perhaps only now did he realize Eichan was positioned perfectly for the down-the-line stroke, or something else?). Watanabe’s form is off and he barely returns the ball cross-court. Ei-chan is already set with a two-handed backhand down-the-line stroke.

p03



…Watanabe fails to touch the ball; new score:
0-15.
Ei-chan reacts with a triumphant fist pump; Watanabe clenches teeth in annoyance. Natsu is wide-eyed with a open mouth happy look; both Erik the sport nutrition sponsor and secretary look pleased.

p04



…Match continues, chasing Watanabe’s cross-court shot, Ei-chan thinks this sensation is similar to what he felt during the match with Iwasa (the artist who played tennis to “draw” pictures) back during high school. With Eichan looking alert and confident, all the tennis pieces are fitting together for a strong winning vision. Eichan sets firmly on the baseline, takes a step forward at his ideal aggressive defence position to hit a powerful two-handed backhand stroke down the line.

p05



…Ei-chan thinks that the new skills he desperately built up in order to move to a higher level (the art shows Ei-chan’s ideal forward defensive position, the rhythm training, his down-the-line, etc…) have started to further increase even his new strategies that use the new skills. Watanabe counters with another cross. Ei-chan’s analysis continues: by acquiring a new mental outlook, he is connecting the disparate pieces and without him noticing it,

p06



…this cycle/repetition results in the ability to draw a bigger vision. Anticipating another down-the-line, Watanabe races to the other side of the court. However, Ei-chan aims for a sharp angle shot. He has no doubt he’s in the zone, but it’s more than that.

p07



…Ei-chan’s shot is a winner. Watanabe is thinking “Hey… are you serious…” Striking a triumphant pose, (the art show a chart’s upward trend) Ei-chan feel this is a sudden growth spurt because he broke through a barrier! Play continues with Watanabe managing to return a shot. However, the ball goes into the net:

p08



…Coach Aoi is wide-eyed. Game, Maruo 3-0. Audience reactions:
Maruo breaks again!
His momentum isn’t stopping…!
Play continues… Ei-chan serves an ace:
Game, Maruo 4-0.
After the call, Watanabe raises his racket in the act of angrily throwing it down!

p09



… Watanabe stops himself, concluding he is wrong (maybe about the change in Ei-chan just being a slight change) it doesn’t mean that he (Watanabe) is at fault (implying that he thinks he isn’t playing badly, just that Ei-chan really is outplaying him). If true, then he should accept it. Play continues with Watanabe hitting a cross. Ei-chan hits a strong backhand down the line; Watanabe fails to reach the ball, but it’s judged out!

p10



…Watanabe notes that error proves there is no way Ei-chan won’t make a single error. Watanabe thinks that right now he can only find a means of escape/survival, intending to make that (Ei-chan’s error) a starting point. (Vampirecat: so Watanabe apparently concludes he’s reduced to pushing?) He hits another cross, and again Ei-chan counters with a strong backhand down-the-line and this time it’s in. Ei-chan thinks he’ll hit it (a down-the-line) even if it fails…it’s necessary to demonstrate that he will wield this weapon effectively. A wide-eyed Coach Asano with a frown looks on in silence as play continues…

p11



…Ei-chan decides to seize this opportunity to leverage the threat of “Where will he (Ei-chan) pull out his weapon?” for other shots. He hits a surprise drop-shot that catches Watanabe flatfooted: Game, Maruo 5-0.
Audience reactions:
Whoa;
Have Watanabe’s feet stopped?

No, Maruo stopped Watanabe’s feet!

p12



…During the break between games, Watanabe watches Ei-chan scribbling in his notebook. Watanabe is in disbelief that Ei-chan is growing flat-out during this match. Watanabe is all “What’s up with that…” when he’s been a pro for 7 years… he entered the 200s ranking at age 22… and after joining the national team, he practiced more than anyone (in his opinion) in a good environmentHe even made it to the Grand Slam qualifiers for 3 consecutive years

p13



…As play continues, Watanabe thinks that he hasn’t made it once to the main draw of the Grand Slam; remembering that Takuma succeeded in doing so at the latest Wimbledon. Watanabe concludes he is being surpassed by all the young guns (art shows Takuma, Ike, and Nabae) and wonders why isn’t he growing!

p14



…As Ei-chan hits a cross, Watanabe wonders what’s different? He returns the ball, wondering whether it (the difference) is in ability… or effort? Ei-chan strikes a triumphant pose after clinching a shot. Watanabe’s thoughts continue: “Is this my limit?” After getting a shot past Ei-chan, Watanabe strikes a triumphant pose, telling himself that (conclusion) is wrong…it has to be wrong! (The art shows a graph where Watanabe’s growth has nearly flat-lined.) Then Ei-chan hits a cross-court winner.

p15



…Watanabe’s posture is completely off as the chair umpire announces:
First set won by Maruo, 6-0.” An exultant Ei-chan clenches both fists, radiating confidence.

p16



…Audience reactions:
Whoa, Maruo took it in a bagel!
Unbelievable!
Watanabeeeeh, (come back) from here!
It’s obvious that Maruo is attacking and winning, you know;
I wonder if he is a bad match-up for Watanabe?
Would it turn out like this just because of that?

During the break between sets, Ei-chan is immersed in his tennis notebook considering the match and strategies. Watanabe, in stark contrast, drapes the towel over his head after toweling his hair.

p17



…Watanabe is hiding underneath a towel, looking extremely distraught. Asano notes that Watanabe has been stagnating for quite a long time. He considers Watanabe’s current competition with Ei-chan to be an ordeal, but if Watanabe overcomes at least that (the ordeal to face Ei-chan or the stagnation?), Watanabe will have gained something.
End of chapter 430.

The teaser blurb says “Will he be able to seize victory with his compilation (apparently of new skills, new mental outlook, and new tactics)?”
The title of the next chapter can be translated as “Crossroads” or “A Parting of Ways.”

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


Chapter 431

Crossroads


Chapter 431 starts with the break between sets and the scoreboard displaying Eichan (E. Maruo) won the first set 6-0.
Watanabe scolds himself because he shouldn’t be thinking about the reason for his stagnation during a match. What he should be thinking about, instead, is how to handle Ei-chan now. He looks over to the next bench and watches Ei-chan scribbling in his notebook.

p01



…Watanabe thinks that every time they change court, Ei-chan is frequently writing in his notebook that way. He has seen players who take notes once in a while, but normally they were just making memos of things they noticed. He suspects that if Ei-chan finds some use for those notes, it’s a matter of immediately making a database of the essential points Ei-chan had experienced, and then creating strategies that apply them. The main point is accurate analysis. He acknowledges that he might be lacking in that aspect, but for that to be a big difference in strength…

p02



…Watanabe considers his strong points to be his physique and technique—he made it a policy to train and control his body and at the same time polish the related skills. Even so, he doesn’t ignore tactics, relying on his coach to cover that weakness. Yet, he is being beaten too badly, no matter how he looks at it.
Ei-chan glances over at Watanabe, speculating that Watanabe is confused by his tactics, so Watanabe’s mental disturbance is likely to reduce Watanabe’s performance. If he continues as he has in the start of the second set… Ei-chan puts that thought on hold as he flips through his notes to check the data he received from Nabae.

p03



…Eichan concludes it’s too optimistic to think he’ll be able to get away completely from Watanabe as things stand. For example, if his down-the-line is captured (Watanabe gets the hang of it?), Watanabe will close up the difference in an instant. The situation is still critical.
The chair umpire calls TIME!
The players return to the court…

p04



…for the first game of the second set.
As Watanabe prepares to serve, he tells himself he will take his time and set his mind in order. He already decided in advance to put out the minimum of his usual power [Ron: What does this minimum power strategy mean? Watanabe, according to V-cat, “apparently intends to conserve his energy and release his full strength only at certain select moments”].

p05



…Watanabe serves wide, and Ei-chan returns the ball cross-court. Watanabe thinks he’ll keep his strategy simple without overthinking things… and make a preemptive strike before he is beaten!

p06



…Watanabe hits a strong shot to the corner to clinch the point: 15-0.
He scowls ferociously with his achievement!

p07



…As the audience roars in surprise, Ei-chan mentally note it was a quick attack that didn’t give Ei-chan time to bring out his weapon. The attack confirms for Ei-chan that he can’t continue as he has—and he adjusts his position backward (defensively), so that he’ll receive the ball from several steps behind the baseline. Watanabe is surprised by the shift and wonders why Ei-chan is doing it that way instead of moving forward?

p08



…Watanabe admits that Ei-chan’s new position would increase Ei-chan’s ability to defend against his preemptive attack. However, the new position would also make it difficult for Ei-chan to produce the down-the-line that Ei-chan hits from a forward position, since the baseline is an area where power is a big factor. In a power contest, moving back from the baseline isn’t good because of the additional distance to the opponent. On the positive side, the additional distance increases Ei-chan’s ability to defend against a strong shot. However, Watanabe finds it’s hard to imagine that Ei-chan will suddenly go on the defensive after being proactive up to now.
[Vampirecat: Heehe, Ei-chan’s forcing Watanabe to think! Ron: Watanabe’s weakness with strategy fails to imagine Eichan has something other than a power contest available.]
So Watanabe mentally challenges Ei-chan to show him how Ei-chan will wield his (the down-the-line) weapon from there!

p09



…Ei-chan knows Watanabe thinks this game is one that he absolutely can’t lose. Eichan has no doubt about this, given how Watanabe made quite the difficult preemptive attack. Eichan thinks the first step is to attack Watanabe’s serve. Eichan can’t use his precious (down-the-line) weapon—his taking a defensive position in the rear is for that purpose… However, he can’t win with just that. Watanabe serves wide, and Ei-chan takes a step sideways to receive the ball. Watanabe anticipates from that position, a proactive Ei-chan will hit a controlled ball as either a straight to the corner or a short angle shot cross-court.

p10



…However, Ei-chan hits a strong cross deep to the opposite corner, taking Watanabe by surprise.

p11



…Watanabe returns the ball, then notices that Ei-chan has moved his defensive position forward, back to his original position. He wonders if it’s a surprise attack… and notes that Ei-chan is playing him with a certain degree of power. Returning the ball with a strong shot, Ei-chan notes that Watanabe’s return was deep, but concludes he’s brought the game to an almost equal footing (so Watanabe’s lost the advantage of his serve). Watanabe believes Ei-chan intends to wait for a chance to hit a down-the-line from his usual position on the baseline. He looks rather frustrated, thinking that Ei-chan is taking out measure after another in rapid succession (meaning Ei-chan has anticipated what Watanabe will do). However, as he swings back to hit the ball, he thinks the situation is still even, so he mentally challenges Ei-chan to show it (the down-the-line) if Ei-chan can!

p12



…Right then, Ei-chan dashes to the net, again surprising Watanabe. Watanabe tries to sink a short cross, but Ei-chan lunges for the ball and volleys: 15-15.

p13



…Watanabe’s thoughts are a whirl of confusion:
why did Ei-chan go to the net now… when Ei-chan had already taken a set from the baseline with his down-the-line… when Ei-chan had already created a situation now where Ei-chan can use the down-the-line? Then Watanabe gasps, snapping out of his thoughts upon noticing that Ei-chan had again taken a receiving position that’s way behind the baseline.
As Watanabe tosses the ball to serve, he reminds himself it’s his serve and initiative, and he will take care of that return right now!
Watanabe serves to the center…

p14



…but it’s a fault. Bouncing the ball, Watanabe tells himself not to rush. Then he notices that this time, Ei-chan has done the opposite: moving so far forward that he is stepping on the corner baseline… So Watanabe serves to the center, going for a serve with a lively spin (so it bounces high). Making a short hop, Ei-chan strikes the ball from above with all his strength.

p15



…Watanabe’s baffled that Ei-chan has chosen yet another (consecutive) power contest. Rushing to the net, Ei-chan thinks he is essentially at a disadvantage when it comes to strong shots. However, it’s the top of the second set and he won the first set using strategy, so Eichan expects that should have some effect (keeping Watanabe off-balance or hesitant); and instead of using the down-the-line weapon, Eichan launches the game into a fast reaction contest at the net.

p16



…Watanabe tries to get the ball past Ei-chan with a down-the-line. However, Ei-chan intercepts the ball, volleying to take the point:

p17



15-30.
Watanabe notes that Ei-chan has good reactions, and wonders if that’s why Ei-chan decided to contest the point at the net…which means Ei-chan has two weapons that Watanabe hasn’t been able to capture (get the hang of?)…
He concludes: “This is bad.”
Ei-chan clenches a triumphant fist as the audience roars.

End of Chapter 431

The teaser blurb says “He has now dared a second time! Will he be able to follow it up with another?!”
The title for chapter 432 is “Balance” or “Equilibrium.”

p18 Jump To Top Of Post and Contents


Chapter 432

Balance


Chapter 432 starts with Watanabe thinking that Ei-chan has two weapons that Watanabe hasn’t been able to get the hang of: the down-the-line and the reaction contest. To think his (movements) have been arrested with one weapon. (The art shows the down-the-line.) The second one won’t simply double its effectiveness when he’s attacked at that point. (The art shows Ei-chan volleying at the net.) Ei-chan thinks he has done it! …even though he is pushing himself, it’s the ideal development that he wanted to make into a success. Watanabe wonders if it was a strategy Ei-chan had prepared for the start of the second set. He thinks even [though] Ei-chan is a rookie who [overpowered him in a bagel for the 1st set, he doesn’t see any relaxing in Eichan’s guard, not even amazement on the part of Eichan. Maybe Eichan was capable of imagining winning this match.] …
He wonders if that means Ei-chan intentionally envisioned getting this far!?

p01



Watanabe serves to the center. Ei-chan returns the ball to a corner… [I apologize, the narration text is confusing, I hope bold font helps to distinguish omniscient narration.]

p02



Narration switches over to an omniscient perspective: Ei-chan commences a reaction contest, throwing Watanabe off balance with strong shots while the down-the-line (strong) is effective. This was the best vision Ei-chan had drawn to defeat Watanabe. He implemented this for the first time with everything going as he had hoped. Furthermore, the impact of being able to produce his second weapon with this timing—when it’s essential for Watanabe to hold to turn things aroundwas major. Even if Watanabe pushes himself a little too much here, if he could get a hang of the down-the-line and hold his serve, he could offset the first set where he was overpowered.

When Watanabe hits a cross, Ei-chan plans to contest it here. Ei-chan hits another down-the-line {*Odd there is no mention about the increased difficulty of hitting the down-the-line so very far from behind the baseline!} to take the point: 15-40.
Omniscient narration continues: However, the [effectiveness?] of the weapons that overpowered him (the art indicates Watanabe) actually increased sharply. Watanabe needed to overcome Ei-chan’s resistance right away, starting with his first serve, in order to change this situation.

p03



Watanabe serves wide. Ei-chan hits a forehand slice cross-court. Watanabe returns it cross-court, then watches Ei-chan closely, wondering which way Ei-chan will hit it.

Omniscient narration continues: But when it turned into a ground stroke contest without Watanabe being able to do that, Watanabe had to take into account not knowing where Ei-chan’s shots (weapons) would go, and shift his defensive position back.

p04



Omniscient narration: The distance from moving back improved his chances of being able to cover the shots, no matter which one appeared. On the other hand, this was a desperation measure that personally suppressed the power that was Watanabe’s weapon.

Watanabe wonders if Ei-chan’s shot will be a down-the-line, a cross to the forecourt, or something else…?
Ei-chan eyes Watanabe’s position and decides to hit a drop shot…

Omniscient narration continues: Ei-chan didn’t pass up the opportunity of Watanabe’s having moved back.
Watanabe dashes to the net for a desperation volley…

p05



However, Ei-chan is also at the net, and he counter-volleys to put the ball away.
Game, Maruo, 1-0.
The audience goes wild: Are you serious?! The second set also started with Maruo’s break!; It can’t be… Will it continue this way…?; Hang in there, Watanabe!

p06



Fans shout: You can still pull it off! Take it from here! Don’t give up!
…Watanabe hears the shouts of encouragement and remembers the Davis Cup match when Yoshimichi broke Watanabe’s tension by lying about Watanabe having a long hair sticking out of a nostril. He remembers Yoshimichi’s advice about not showing his tension to the audience because it would make them worry. Watanabe realizes he had forgotten that he was being watched, and taking a drink from a PET bottle, he reminds himself he is proudly representing the national team.

p07



Omniscient narration: As the second set continues, the second game is Ei-chan’s service. Starting from the serve, Ei-chan developed it to his advantage with an offense that used his two weapons freely. However, Watanabe devotes himself to pushing and steadily started to slip out of his horrible state of confusion. But even then, he failed to break. (Score: 6-0, 2-0)…

p08



Omniscient narration continues: Then in the third game, Watanabe’s next service, Watanabe’s pushing from the rear-court starts to bear fruit: at the same time as the effectiveness of Ei-chan’s down-the-line (power?) fades, this way of fighting is powerful at the critical moment. (The art shows Watanabe hitting a very strong shot and Ei-chan’s return going into the net.) And Watanabe finally held his serve for the first time in the match.

p09



… Watanabe thinks he still has time and plans to pull himself together!
Omniscient narration continues: In the situation where one break would be fatal to his overwhelming lead, Ei-chan moves his defensive position forward, to the limit (of his ideal defensive area?), in order to enhance the effectiveness of his weapons. Because of this, a situation develops where both players’ defense and offense reach a balance in a certain sense.
(So this is what the title of the chapter refers to.) And the match progresses with both sides holding their respective serves. (Score: 6-0, 3-2. Score: 6-0, 4-3.)

p10



Watanabe hits a shot down the line, and thinks that dragging things out in a contest of physical strength is what he’s hoping for. If he gets one (game?) back, it (the set?) will turn to his favor. Watanabe takes a step, moving his defensive position forward.
Omniscient narration continues: During this stalemate, Watanabe sometimes tried to return to his original defensive position, aiming for a turnaround… (The art shows Ei-chan’s down-the-line shooting past Watanabe…!)

However, each time he did, Ei-chan desperately (risking his life) blocked him with his two weapons.

p11



(Score: 6-0, 5-3.)
Om Narrator: Proactively compelled into relentless forward-backward movement, Ei-chan’s fatigue started to manifest and occasions when he lost points due to errors in judgment also increased. (The art shows Ei-chan rushing to the net, but Watanabe gets a shot past him.)
Om Narrator: Nevertheless, Ei-chan keeps a tight desperate grip on his chance of winning by continuing to display an aggressive posture.
…Ei-chan reminds himself that his opponent is a member of the national team—that’s precisely why he’s taking chances!

p12



Ei-chan thinks that if he abandons one of his weapons now, Watanabe will get the hang of Ei-chan’s other weapon to push back with his power-offense right away… Omniscient narration continues: In the meantime, the opposing Watanabe was moving forward little by little.
Using his reserve strength, he slowly improved his defensive position and even now has returned to his usual defensive position. (The art shows Watanabe hitting a strong cross that’s a clear winner.)

p13



Om Narrator: And in the tenth game of the second set… (Score: 6-0, 5-4.) As things stand, it won’t be good enough.

p14



Om-Narrator: “Watanabe goes all out, rushing forward from his home position and using technique and all his power in a ground-stroke contest.”
…Ei-chan sends the ball to the corner; Watanabe counters with a powerful shot cross-court.

p15



…Ei-chan chases the ball, but fails to touch the fast ball as it lands…
OUT!

p16



Game; set; and match Maruo 6-0, 6-4.
Eric smiles; Ei-chan’s parents look shocked but thrilled. Even Coach Aoi looks somewhat surprised. Asano looks daunted. Natchan simply looks elated and triumphant. Audience reactions: H… Hey…; Watanabe, a member of the national team, lost!; Maruo who came up through the prelims…will advance to a finals at last…!
The crowd cheers as Ei-chan strikes a triumphant pose.

p17



…Ei-chan silently exults: “I managed to hold on!”
Omniscient narration continues: For Watanabe, the frustrating defeat was just like the match with Nabae, and at the same time, it was a complete defeat that he was compelled to recognize even more than the other time. Watanabe holds his head with a bitter expression. Ei-chan walks to the net to meet Watanabe for the usual handshake.
End of chapter 432

The teaser blurb says “For the first time in Ei-chan’s professional career, he heads to a Challenger final!”

The title for chapter 433 is “Growth.”

[07 May 2017 Sure, at the start of this challenger I predicted that Eichan would be in the final round and provided reasons why the author needed to write the plot that way – the number of strong opponents to my prediction was a surprise – I thought the reasons I provided were convincing. But now, I am also surprised that for 2 weeks the forum has been silent about their shock that Eichan reached the final round. Am I so different from everyone there? I mean several individuals said they could not imagine Eichan reaching the final (it would no longer be “Baby Steps”). If I had predicted Eichan losing before the final round, I would now be in the forum stating how surprised I am, at what the author just wrote. Instead I only hear 2 weeks of silence…
Please share your thoughts and predictions about the final match in the comments below, Ciao!]

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Chapter 433

Growth

Chapter 433 page 01
…Chapter 433 opens with the usual handshake between players. Ei-chan thanks Watanabe who looks too frustrated for words.

p01


Chapter 433 page 02
…With the scoreboard showing 6-0, 6-4, the audience is all worked up with many smiles and excited faces to be seen: Whoa, someone ranked in the 1400s swept the 161st?!; A sweep?; Advancing to the finals on his first attempt at a Challenger is a big deal in the tennis world, you know; Amazing…; Maruo Eiichirou, huh…I hadn’t heard of him since the All Japan; Isn’t he the next rookie in the Ike generation that we can expect a lot from, after Nabae? Eric smiles as he looks around and sees the happy faces.

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Chapter 433 page 03
…As Ei-chan leaves the court, he remembers the match, thinking he was able to do everything he wanted to do…he defeated a member of the national team, even if only by a small margin.

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Chapter 433 page 04
…Eichan realizes he’s gotten stronger! It’s (His efforts have) taken effect! Natchan and the others are there to congratulate him as he climbs the steps beside the bleachers. Kageyama says Ei-chan had gotten so strong without Kageyama realizing it.

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Chapter 433 page 05
…Ei-chan looks relieved to see them and in his relief, his legs wobble and he stumbles into Natchan. Hanging on to her, he looks at her in surprise,

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Chapter 433 page 06
…then rests his head on her shoulder, exhaling deeply. Natchan notices how his hands and legs are shaking, and comments that it had been life-or-death deal. Coach Aoi explains that that way of playing also held the possibility of self-destruction. Luckily, Ei-chan had taken the initiative and Watanabe had gone in with a wait-and-see attitude. Ei-chan can’t aim for a match like today’s, but it’s a fact that he pulled off what he tried to do. With this victory, Ei-chan ought to be confident of being able to do this much.

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Chapter 433 page 07
…Then Aoi suggests it’s about time Ei-chan put a bit of distance (between himself and Natchan). Several bemused people, besides Ei-chan’s friends and family, are watching them—including one guy who seems to disapprove. An embarrassed Ei-chan releases Natchan. Scene switch to the room set aside for player treatment where Asano and Watanabe are perched on separate cots. Asano tells Watanabe it was a good match, but the result was tough. Watanabe isn’t able to say anything in response.

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Chapter 433 page 08
…Coach Asano continues, speculating that Watanabe already has various points to reflect on, but requests he be allowed to say a few things as a coach of the national team. Asano says he heard that Watanabe has his sights on participating in the main draw of the Grand Slam all along, but he suggests
it might be better if Watanabe were to stop that already. Shocked, Watanabe looks up and stares at Asano. An embarrassed Asano tells Watanabe, “Oh…That’s not it, that’s not it. I’m not saying it’s impossible, okay?”

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Chapter 433 page 09
…Coach Asano explains that he feels that (participating in the main draw) has become Watanabe’s final goal without Watanabe realizing it. He points out that Ei-chan has the same objective as Watanabe when Ei-chan has only seen a Grand Slam and hasn’t even taken part in the qualifiers. Ei-chan is seriously aiming for the main draw of the Grand Slam, just like Watanabe. But when considering actual ability, Watanabe mustn’t say he is the same as Ei-chan. Asano explains that for Watanabe, participating in the main draw is a transit point—Watanabe ought to set winning one round first, no, reaching the Best 8 as his objective. The disheartened Watanabe argues that it’s because he hasn’t actually taken part in the main draw yet. Asano argues that’s irrelevant. He wants Watanabe to have a better understanding of just how important setting a goal is in this world—because Watanabe has a future ahead of him.

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Chapter 433 page 10
…Asano explains that if Watanabe’s objective is simply participation in the Grand Slam, earning points in the lower tour might be easier to achieve, but if Watanabe continues with just that, he won’t be able to win when he participates in the main draw. (The diagram indicates that since the level and points earned in the lower tour are low, it’s easier to earn points, but you take part in more tournaments and there’s the risk that the number of high-level matches in the tournaments you take part in will decrease. In the world tour, it’s harder to earn points because the level (of the matches) is high, but if you win, not only are the points a lot, you get used to matches that are on a level similar to the Grand Slam, and it becomes easier to compete in the Grand Slam.)
Asano’s explanation continues: Of course, winning in the lower tour is important. However, because Watanabe is certainly trying too hard to win there, Watanabe’s tennis is atrophying—which probably applies technically and psychologically. Watanabe is chagrined to hear this. But Asano points out that it means Watanabe has room for growth.

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Chapter 433 page 11
…surprising Watanabe! Asano assures him he confirmed that (room for growth?) in the second half of today’s match; which is why he really believes it was a good match. He tells Watanabe he’ll work with Watanabe, and suggests they start from here. Watanabe accepts the offer.
Scene switch to outdoors. Ei-chan has changed clothes and is looking on while his parents greet Eric. Coach Aoi reminds Ei-chan about preparing for tomorrow’s match and suggests they go for his post-match physical treatment.

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Chapter 433 page 12
…Ei-chan thanks Eric for making a special effort to come and watch his match. Eric replies he finally saw Ei-chan producing smiles, and adds that he believes Ei-chan is capable of more. Shaking Eric’s hand, Ei-chan thanks him again, and thinks that at last…he’s reached a finals!
At this point, Krishna and his opponent exit the players’ lounge and head to the court.

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Chapter 433 page 13
…Krishna notices Ei-chan, and smiles and waves as he passes Ei-chan. Watching Krishna and his opponent enter the court, Ei-chan wonders whether his next opponent will be Krishna or the 5th seed, the 152nd ranked Aloisi.

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Chapter 433 page 14
…Coach Aoi asks Ei-chan’s dad to record the Krishna match, and Ei-chan’s dad agrees. Then coach Aoi suggests to Ei-chan that they set out. Watching Ei-chan’s group leave, Eric’s secretary comments that Ei-chan was cool. Eric agrees and adds that Ei-chan’s steady but bold. If it’s possible for Ei-chan, he will grant their wishes. There is a thrilling charm to how he destroys his obstacles. Kageyama and Sasaki take their leave of Ei-chan. They encourage Ei-chan to do his best in the finals and for Natchan to take care tomorrow.

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Chapter 433 page 15
…Natchan hugs Sasaki, suggesting they meet up when Natchan gets back. Kageyama suggests that since they have a connection with Ei-chan, Natchan should let them hear about everything. (Scene change) Ei-chan undergoes post match care, including the ice bath. Finally, coach Aoi announces it’s done!

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Chapter 433 page 16
…Ei-chan thanks coach Aoi. Then Ei-chan’s phone rings with a call from his dad, Kazuya. Ei-chan answers and asks what happened with the match. He is surprised to hear it’s already over with a score of 6-3, 6-1. Ei-chan tells coach Aoi that it seems Krishna swept his opponent. Aoi comments that it has only been an hour and the opponent was higher ranked. Ei-chan marvels that his opponent in the finals is Krishna!

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Chapter 433 page 17
…Natchan comments that Krishna is a friend from when Ei-chan went to IMG (Florida), and Ei-chan confirms this and adds that he’s happy to have the match (with Krishna) in this sort of setting. Eichan says he has to go home fast and come up with strategies while watching the video. Aoi asks whether Ei-chan doesn’t have other plans, and reminds him that Natchan is leaving for America tomorrow. A blushing Ei-chan apologetically replies that he is just talking about today’s outcome, of course. Natchan replies that it can’t be helped that Ei-chan has the match tomorrow,

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Chapter 433 page 18
… Natchan adds that he has to rest early. She wants Ei-chan to win. They were able to be together all day today, and she is fine with that. Coach Aoi thinks she is surprisingly supportive about it. Someone (most likely Natchan said this) announces they’ll make absolutely sure by devoting it (the evening) to the Keiryo championship.

End of Chapter 433.

The teaser blurb says “A tactical session with Natchan, devoted to the championship!

The title for chapter 434 is “Evening

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Chapter 434

Evening
Chapter 434 page 01
…Chapter 434 opens in STC where Ei-chan, Natchan, and Coach Aoi are watching the video of Krishna’s match with Aloisi. Coach Aoi comments that Krishna is skillful, that even though Krishna has a slender physique, he is coping well against a burly opponent and outhitting him.

p01


Chapter 434 page 02
…Ei-chan remarks that it seems Krishna has suddenly gotten stronger, so that Krishna’s capable of that. Aoi describes Krishna’s left-handed forehand slice as nasty. Every time Krishna hits it, Aloisi’s posture is thrown off. Aoi adds that on watching the course of events all throughout, Krishna’s quite smart. He doesn’t lose a point the same way twice. And he’s quick to spot his opponent’s weaknesses. Ei-chan tells him Krishna seems to have a very good memory, and it’s possible he remembers everything. Ei-chan has a flashback to his conversation with Krishna about Yoshimichi’s results this year and how what Krishna mentioned matched Ei-chan’s notes. Aoi compares it to what Ei-chan’s doing with his notes. Coach Aoi asks Ei-chan how Krishna had been last year after losing to Nabae at the Super Juniors; that was around the time Ei-chan was in Florida (IMG), so Ei-chan must have seen Krishna.

p02


Chapter 434 page 03
…Ei-chan replies that a year ago, his score against stood at two wins and two losses during practice matches, and the wins of both players were won through pushing. Since it was just practice, Ei-chan doesn’t have a grasp on Krishna’s specialty. He thinks Krishna was trying out various tactics like that forehand slice that Krishna hit with a strong lateral rotation. He’s not sure how things will turn out if Krishna’s fixated on winning in an official match.
Aoi comments that Krishna’s kinda similar to Ei-chan and Nabae. However, Natchan disagrees; she thinks Krishna’s more the intuitive type than the analytical type. When Ei-chan asks for clarification, Natchan slows the video to highlight how Krishna hits a ball and points out how Krishna takes his eye off the ball a bit faster than average. Ei-chan sees her point.

p03


Chapter 434 page 04
…Coach Aoi notes that if you can minimize looking at the ball, you can check your opponent’s movements and quickly decide where to aim next. Natchan adds that if you have a good memory and a good situational judgment, then if intuition is a strong consideration, Krishna might be the type who would play better by making split-second decisions on the spot. Aoi agrees that the moment that sort of guy gains power and technique, he’s likely to become stronger.
Natchan asks Ei-chan if he has any memories of Krishna.

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Chapter 434 page 05
…Ei-chan replies that the first time he went to IMG, they were roommates, but Krishna hadn’t been the type to talk much. Since Ei-chan was poor at English, he didn’t talk much, either, so he felt a sense of fellowship with Krishna, Krishna being a year younger and having come to the U.S. by himself. However, Ei-chan overheard Atsushi ask Krishna what sort of book Krishna was reading—and Krishna replied fluently and at length. Krishna’s English had been perfect. Shocked, Ei-chan had asked Krishna why Krishna was so quiet, and …

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Chapter 434 page 06
…Krishna’s answer was that he thinks he isn’t good at asserting himself. That left a strong impression on Ei-chan. However, the second time Ei-chan met Krishna in Florida (IMG), he had a different impression. Ei-chan asked Atsushi about it, and Atsushi explained that Krishna learns to assert himself and had gotten stronger. Natchan marvels at the answer. But Ei-chan wonders if it’s possible for one’s tennis to get stronger because you can assert yourself. She believes it’s possible, especially in America, where it’s hard to do various things if you can’t state clearly why you want to do something.

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Chapter 434 page 07
…Coach Aoi comments that Ei-chan always had clear objectives, which is why he is able to get lots of people to help him out. Ei-chan might have been able to do it (assert himself?) well. Ei-chan speculates that Krishna has made that (his objective?) clear recently. Aoi concludes that Krishna is an outstanding talent who will no doubt advance in the tennis world in the future, so it’s good that Ei-chan can play against him now. The discussion continues until around 7pm.

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Chapter 434 page 08
…Ei-chan and Natchan take their leave of Aoi. Ei-chan thanks Aoi for staying late. Aoi prompts Ei-chan about tomorrow’s match, and tells Natchan to take care since she is starting a new life over there (in America). Natchan thanks Aoi for everything, and tells him she’ll contact him when she gets back (to Japan).

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Chapter 434 page 09
…Ei-chan and Natchan walk off, holding hands. He tells her he’ll walk her all the way home. She thanks him and suggests they take the long way home and stroll. So they take their time walking around and look like they’re having an enjoyable conversation.

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Chapter 434 page 10
…Then Ei-chan mentions that in Atlanta, close to the University of Georgia, which Natchan will be attending, there is an ATP250 match that’s part of the World Tour.

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Chapter 434 page 11
…He doesn’t have enough points yet to take part in that match, but one of his objectives is to earn ranking where he competes in it next summer. Natchan is ecstatic by the possibility, saying that if Ei-chan comes, she’ll definitely go cheer him on. She adds that it would be terrific if he were to win in the prelims and make his world debut there. She gets even more excited, telling Ei-chan he definitely can do it. Ei-chan replies that somehow he also feels he can. He feels he gained confidence with the current tournament.

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Chapter 434 page 12
…Natchan tells him he can stay over at her place then (when he goes to Atlanta to play in the ATP250). Ei-chan is surprised because he was under the impression she was in the school’s dorm. However, Natchan reveals she is renting a place close to the campus. Since the place is fairly large, it’s okay (for him to stay over). A blushing Ei-chan informs her he’ll take her up on her offer. Natchan comments that it’s one year from now, which is soon. They reach her home. Natchan tells him that even though she says that, she’ll come home when able, like for the New Year holidays. They’ll also have video calls, so unexpectedly, it doesn’t feel like they’ll be apart. She takes her leave.

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Chapter 434 page 13
…Their hands release, and then Ei-chan grabs Natchan’s hand, stopping her. He hugs her tight

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Chapter 434 page 14
…Eichan tells her that the more he thinks about it, the more he doesn’t want to be apart from her after all, that she is essential to his life plan. Natchan is surprised and gets teary-eyed on hearing that.

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Chapter 434 page 15
…Ei-chan continues, telling her he is sure that if they both are true to themselves, no doubt they will be fine no matter where they are! So he tells her to enjoy herself to the fullest. (Natsu smiles)

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Chapter 434 page 16
…Agreeing, Natchan hugs him back. Then she tells him to tell her about that plan properly next time. (Ei-chan: “EH?”) Because she’ll make amendments (to it) depending on the situation. (Ei-chan: “EH?”) She points out that it also has her plan, right? (Ei-chan: “That…that’s right!”) Then the two blush, both of them thinking that one just now sounded like a marriage proposal. Natchan waves, taking her leave again. Ei-chan waves back, agreeing to next time.

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Chapter 434 page 17
…[NO DIALOGUE: Natsu waves farewell, enters the house, while Eichan remains standing outside, staring blankly at her bedroom window. The light goes on in Natsu’s bedroom. Then Eichan is surprised when she opens the curtain. She is also surprised to see him still there.]

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Chapter 434 page 18
…Natsu tells Eichan to go home quickly, rest and do his best tomorrow! Ei-chan acknowledges her. They wave at each other as Ei-chan turns to leave.

End of chapter 434.
The blurb says: “The separation of the two is to bring them closer together.”
The title for chapter 435 is “Finals

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Chapter 435

FINALS

Chapter 435 page 01
…Ch.435 opens early morning with Ei-chan receiving a message from Natchan saying she is leaving and will be rooting for Ei-chan while in the sky. She includes a selfie at the entrance to the airport. Ei-chan replies that he will do his best, putting his life on the line, to be able to report a good result. He leaves home and goes to Keiryo for morning practice.

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Chapter 435 page 02
…Krishna is there as well. Even that early, people are already coming to watch, including Ōbayashi and Yukichi. Ōbayashi comments that although it’s a tempestuous tournament where the top seeds rapidly disappeared, he never imagined that Ei-chan would really make it to the finals. Ei-chan was amazing yesterday against Watanabe. Yukichi counters that it wouldn’t be strange for Ei-chan to win as Ei-chan is now.
Ei-chan’s phone rings.

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Chapter 435 page 03
…It’s Atsushi; apparently Ei-chan asked him to call because he has something to ask Atsushi. It’s currently 19:00 (7 p.m.) in Florida, which means 8:00 a.m. in Japan. Atsushi guesses Ei-chan wants to ask about Krishna; apparently Ei-chan had told Atsushi he’s up against Krishna in the Keiryo finals. Ei-chan explains the match is coming up and he remembered yesterday that Atsushi said Krishna had started being able to assert himself and got stronger. He asks why Krishna was bad at asserting himself and how Krishna started being able to do so.

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Chapter 435 page 04
…Atsushi explains that with Krishna’s results this year, it was decided that Krishna would go on to a famous university. Ei-chan notes there are a lot of pros going to university lately; the universities act like prominent sponsors for strong players, especially in America. Atsushi comments that the number of pro matches they can take part in decreases, but aside from that what they can get out of it increases. Ei-chan thinks Natchan is doing the same.
Atsushi reminds Ei-chan that Krishna’s family is unbelievably wealthy (actually Ei-chan hadn’t know), so Krishna doesn’t really need a sponsor.

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Chapter 435 page 05
…Krishna has the funds to travel around the world all year. And even if he didn’t, a single word from Krishna’s father would gather lots of sponsors. Ei-chan is envious, thinking that Krishna lives in a different world from him who doesn’t have money and Wang Wei who doesn’t have freedom. Atsushi adds that if you’re as strong as Krishna, you can have a training environment even if it’s not university facilities.
Ei-chan asks why Krishna’s going to university in that case. Atsushi replies that Krishna’s going simply to study. A shocked Ei-chan asks whether Krishna intends to turn pro. Atsushi confirms this, saying this is where Krishna’s self-assertion comes in. He says Krishna had always been troubled that he couldn’t do tennis to the extent of living on tennis the way Pete and Alex do.

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Chapter 435 page 06
…Ei-chan asks if there’s something else Krishna wants to do. Atsushi explains there’s Krishna’s family and it seems Krishna wants to study business and actually has considerable ability, and since he couldn’t devote himself to tennis, he hadn’t been able to state his goal clearly, so he couldn’t assert himself well. Krishna felt he couldn’t say anything to Atsushi who was desperately working only on tennis, and couldn’t ask advice from his friends, whom he’s competing with, when he could see their difficulties up-close. Then around a year and a half ago Krishna said it’s like he made a breakthrough.

Start of flashback. Atsushi commented that Krishna’s going to go pro.

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Chapter 435 page 07
…Krishna confirmed this, explaining that tennis has enriched his life and is the best sport…he loves tennis. That’s why he’ll continue playing tennis all his life and intends to aim for the top. However, he’ll also pour his efforts into other things—that’s what he decided. Pete rubbed Krishna’s head, saying everyone knows Krishna loves tennis and they know there are other possibilities for Krishna. Atsushi added that if that’s how Krishna has decided to live, he has everyone’s blessing. End of flashback.

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Chapter 435 page 08
…Atsushi adds that after that, Krishna suddenly became stronger. Ei-chan asks if that means Krishna will play as a pro while also working in another field, and if Krishna can do that. Atsushi acknowledges it’s difficult but if it’s Krishna… Atsushi thinks there are lots of people in America who feel that how the Japanese devote their life to just one thing is a virtue; however, there are actually people in America who are doctors as well as gold medalists, or lawyers as well as pro athletes, so Krishna is serious about going in that direction. And it seems there are cases where such people hit a slump when they’re made to focus on only one thing. However, the coaching staff (in IMG) sigh over how strong Krishna could become if only he concentrated only on tennis.

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Chapter 435 page 09
…Ei-chan thinks it’s amazing: someone who’s too capable in everything and thus is undecided has decided to do something. Atsushi asks if that sort of thing is enough. Ei-chan replies that it is and thanks him. Atsushi tells Ei-chan to do his best in the match and ends the call. Then he thinks that Ei-chan’s also amazing to have reached a Challenger final after one year.

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Chapter 435 page 10
…More people arrive at the Keiryo venue. They exclaim over the finals being a face-off between teenagers, and one side is someone ranked in the 1400s who came up through the qualifiers. They wonder what sort of match they’ll see. Among the people are Ei-chan’s parents, Coach Aoi, and Asano. Krishna and Ei-chan arrive at the court.

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Chapter 435 page 11
…They put their things on their respective benches, then shake hands. Krishna notes it’s been a while since they played against each other, and he tells Ei-chan he is happy. Ei-chan echoes the sentiment. He thinks he has worked hard. He intends to win here and get a step closer to (getting on) the national team. He’ll gain points and the best environment, then the world tour next year…and then summer in Atlanta.

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Chapter 435 page 12
…The chair umpire announces the start of the Keiryo Challenger finals –

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Chapter 435 page 13
– as a 3-set match with Krishna serving.

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Chapter 435 page 14
…As Ei-chan prepares to receive, he thinks that he first has to return Krishna’s peculiar left-handed serve well. Krishna serves to the center.

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Chapter 435 page 15
…The ball bounces farther left than Ei-chan expected, so his posture is off as he returns the ball. He considers the inflection (of the ball) difficult to reach and barely manages to return the ball deep.

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Chapter 435 page 16
…However, Krishna is ready for it, and hits the ball to the corner. The strong curve of the ball prevents Eichan from touching it; point 15-0.

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Chapter 435 page 17
…Ei-chan notes that Krishna clinched the point with a single blow, even though the ball had been deep. Ei-chan definitely feels that in comparison with before, Krishna is playing like he made a breakthrough. And with just this (exchange?) now, Ei-chan can tell that Krishna is much stronger than when they last played.

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Chapter 435 page 18
…Ei-chan concludes he has to return the serve more properly. He shifts his receive position to the doubles sideline. He plans on being on the lookout for the peculiar left-handed serve that cuts sharply (away) compared to a right-handed serve. If he brings the play to a rally while coping with this (the left-handed serve)…
Krishna notices the shift and thinks this is just like Ei-chan.
End of chapter 435.

The teaser blurb says “What Ei-chan’s aiming for is naturally to win the first move” (meaning to seize the initiative).
The title for chapter 436 is “Respect” (this apparently refers to Krishna’s attitude toward Ei-chan.)

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Chapter 436

Respect

Chapter 436 page 01
…Ch.436 opens with Ei-chan having his receive position farther out, by the doubles sideline. He reminds himself that the position, which is intended to counter Krishna’s peculiar left-handed serve (the art shows how the position makes it easier for Ei-chan to receive Krishna’s slice serve, which cuts away from the receiver), puts him farther away from the middle of the court, so he has to return fast (to eliminate the open court, I guess). Coach Aoi notes that Ei-chan doesn’t have much experience playing against southpaws, so the first thing Ei-chan has to do is to get sufficiently accustomed to countering Krishna’s shots. Studying Ei-chan’s position, Krishna thinks the center looks open, so he is tempted to aim for it. However, he serves wide…

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Chapter 436 page 02
…Ei-chan has sufficient time to get into position to receive the ball, but the slice serve results in a low bounce…

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Chapter 436 page 03
…He was forced to scoop the ball, and it hit the net-cord and goes out: 30-0.
Ei-chan notes that the low height of the ball increases the chances of it going into the net (or going out). Even though the serve came as he expected, the low bounce made the ball that much more difficult to return. He concludes that Krishna’s slice serve has evolved much more into a weapon.

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Chapter 436 page 04
…In preparation for Krishna’s next serve, Ei-chan again plants himself slightly to the left of his usual receive position, even for the deuce court.

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Chapter 436 page 05
…Krishna serves to the center; it’s again a slice serve that requires Ei-chan to scoop the ball—which goes into the net: 40-0.
Audience reactions: The course really cut things close (the ball bounced very close to the center line); That’s an amazingly good serve.
Ei-chan swears mentally. He thought it would go well this time, so he increased the power of his swing. He concludes that it’s as Atsushi had said: this isn’t the same Krishna as before. However, considering he is forcing Krishna to take risks, it’s not too bad.

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Chapter 436 page 06
…Krishna faults on his next serve. Ei-chan thinks that was dangerous since Krishna had served in a way that the ball went farther aside. However, Ei-chan believes that if it comes again in the second serve, his countermeasure should succeed. So thinking, he shifts his left leg forward. Krishna notices Ei-chan’s movement, then tosses the ball. Ei-chan is surprised to see the ball tossed much farther to the left than before.

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Chapter 436 page 07
…Krishna serves to the center: a kick serve with a very strong rotation to the ball. Ei-chan barely touches it:

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Chapter 436 page 08
Game, Krishna, 1-0.
As Ei-chan heads to the bench, he thinks it’s a second serve that Krishna has never hit before (I assume he means in his practice matches with Krishna). He wonders if Krishna had hit his first serves confidently because Krishna has that (kick) serve. He concludes that Krishna definitely presents a different face when he is playing in a tournament match.

p08


Chapter 436 page 09
…Krishna notices Ei-chan’s tennis notebook on Ei-chan’s bench and remembers he had been surprised the first time he saw it—because it had the same things that he had always done in his head. Everyone had praised Ei-chan for it, and Krishna realized it was also one way of self-assertion. For the first time, Krishna was able to convey his true feelings along with his actions. He had been hesitating because he couldn’t assert himself, but that (being able to convey his feelings) turned into the ability to decide he would do what he wanted to do.

p09


Chapter 436 page 10
…In the start of Ei-chan’s service, Ei-chan decides he’ll also hold his serve for sure in the start of the match. He serves wide. Krishna considers it a good serve, but… Ei-chan notes that Krishna’s return is also high level. He thinks it would be impossible to take the point with just his serve if he doesn’t take any risks. He wonders how to hold on until his down-the-line (strong). Krishna thinks that shallow balls halfway to either side would make it impossible for Ei-chan to aim for a down-the-line. Ei-chan, on the other hand, wonders when he can use the down-the-line… if he is risking his life. However, he also reminds himself he must not force things too much.

p10


Chapter 436 page 11
…Given the circumstances, Krishna then decides to hit a fast forward slice, surprising Ei-chan!

p11


Chapter 436 page 12
…Ei-chan manages to return it, but he acknowledges that Krishna has taken the initiative. Krishna easily puts the ball away with a cross: 0-15.
Ei-chan notes that he had that shot in mind, but it was sharper than he had imagined. He hadn’t expected Krishna to suddenly use it when Ei-chan had the upper hand.

p12


Chapter 436 page 13
…Krishna remembers what he heard from Atsushita, that Ei-chan had adopted the fast forward slice from beach tennis and made it into a weapon. Krishna had thought it was a great idea, so he had Atsushi assist him in adopting  it too. Krishna thinks he really respects the side of Ei-chan that does that—producing ideas from unexpected places that can be applied to tennis. Ei-chan serves to the center, and Krishna returns the ball. A rally ensues. Ei-chan thinks he wants to make an attack with his down-the-line succeed early on. However, he notes that with Krishna countering with slices (Krishna hits another forward slice), the ball is low, so it’s hard to go for a down-the-line stroke.

p13


Chapter 436 page 14
…As the rally continues, coach Aoi thinks that the forward-slice stroke was clearly planned because Krishna is wary of Ei-chan’s down-the-line. It’s obvious that Krishna has fully analyzed Ei-chan’s match with Watanabe because he recognizes Ei-chan is a tough opponent. Krishna hits a cross. Ei-chan thinks it will be a bit tight but… Krishna’s eyes widen slightly as he notices something. Then Ei-chan hits a strong down-the-line.

p14


Chapter 436 page 15
…However, Krishna’s already getting in position to return the ball. Ei-chan is surprised that the ball was returned, but he manages to put the ball away:

p15


Chapter 436 page 16
15-15.
Ei-chan notes he took the point with a winner, but it didn’t make Krishna recognize it as a strong weapon at the start (it failed to shake-up Krishna). When Eichan had noticed, Krishna was already reacting to the ball. He has a short flashback to the strategy discussion when Natchan suggested Krishna relies more on intuition…

p16


Chapter 436 page 17
…Eichan reminds himself that Krishna spends only a short time watching the ball and a long time watching his opponent. So Ei-chan calculates backward the timing of his moves, and realizes that Krishna had started moving the instant Ei-chan had taken a step forward for his down-the-line (strong).

p17


Chapter 436 page 18
…Ei-chan concludes that Krishna is probably wary of Ei-chan’s down-the-line. However, Krishna doesn’t just play by completely learning his opponent’s tactics, he also responds intuitively, giving priority to the visual info he is able to observe. This is the stronger Krishna.

End of chapter 436.

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Chapter 437

The Close Connection

Chapter 437 page 01
…Play continues, Ei-chan suspects Krishna moved because of Ei-chan’s one step—which means not only Krishna’s reaction (decision making?) but also his response (dealing with the shot) is fast.

p01


Chapter 437 page 02
…The art divides the opponent’s movements into 3 stages:
1) the back swing, 2) the swing, and 3) the follow-through. In Ei-chan’s case, in 1) he can’t move until this point, against an opponent who doesn’t have any quirks; when it gets to 2), he is able to start moving because he can generally predict the shot based his opponent’s form; and by 3), he can accelerate toward the ball, so his reaction is fast. In Krishna’s case, if his opponent (Ei-chan) takes a step forward, Krishna is all prepared to start moving because it’s a point that risks the match, so he puts the big possibility of a down-the-line at the top of his list (of possibilities?); and by 2), Krishna is able to predict most of it, therefore he can consider even the next development, so his response (dealing with the shot) is fast. Based on this comparison, Ei-chan concludes it won’t be easy to maintain his advantage. Krishna sees the strategy that had been worked out in theory… basically, his performance responds to the situation while prioritizing his intuition… Krishna can do accurately in his head what Ei-chan does frantically with his written notes.

p02


Chapter 437 page 03
…So it would be better (for Ei-chan) to take some measures ahead of time. If Krishna expects a down-the-line when Ei-chan takes a step forward, then from a posture where he takes a step forward when going for a down-the-line (strong) … (at this point Krishna cocks his knee apparently to sprint for the corner) Ei-chan hits a cross instead. Ei-chan thinks it was close, but Krishna had reached the ball…

p03


Chapter 437 page 04
…However, Ei-chan believes he has turned it to his advantage to a certain extent, so he decides to go to the net to make it a contest of reactions, which would be to Ei-chan’s favor. Seeing Ei-chan dash forward, Krishna hits a down-the-line and gets the ball past Ei-chan:

p04


Chapter 437 page 05
15-30.
Krishna notes that Ei-chan’s weapons are his strong-down-the-line shot and a reaction contest where he shortens the distance (to the net), so Krishna can’t allow him to use them. Ei-chan’s dad comments that the attacks that worked yesterday aren’t effective at all. Coach Aoi silently notes that Krishna can judge the situation that well in an instant, and wonders how smart Krishna is. Ei-chan thinks he had rushed the match because he wanted to establish his weapon. He should have wielded his weapon after he built up more of an advantage.

p05


Chapter 437 page 06
…So he wonders what he should do to bring things to that point. He serves to the center. Krishna manages to return the ball with a backhand. Then Ei-chan decides to go for a stroke with a fast tempo and aim with 2/64… then while using the fast tempo, he’ll expand his advantage through a change of pace. The rally continues, Krishna thinks that Ei-chan suddenly got stronger by moving his defensive position a step forward. Krishna sees the basis of this offensive power to be Ei-chan’s ability to react (fast reactions) and lack of technical weaknesses.

p06


Chapter 437 page 07
…As play continues, the view point switches to Miyamoto, the Tennis Times reporter. He notes that Ei-chan and Krishna are both dark horses and their level (of play?) is considerably high. He tells himself he should feature Ei-chan’s rapid flourishing in a big way. Then looking at his notebook, he thinks Krishna is evidently the real deal. He is glad he was able to interview Krishna before the match, noting that Krishna is an athlete who said some interesting things. He remembers Krishna telling him that the foundation of his play is defense.

p07


Chapter 437 page 08
…It’s the same basis as business, which he is studying: first of all is the elimination of risk. Back in the game, Krishna thinks the situation is unfavorable… so if Ei-chan is about to wield his weapon, Krishna will resist with a slice so the ball doesn’t bounce high. Krishna hits a backhand slice that Ei-chan is forced to scoop up to return. Ei-chan had expected to turn it into the critical moment (when he could use the down-the-line?) but Krishna was able to escape using the slice—it is like Krishna is reading Ei-chan’s mind.

p08


Chapter 437 page 09
…Miyamoto’s flashback: Krishna tells him, however, that in business, simply defending isn’t practical. It is also necessary to attack in order to allow the business to expand. Options and concentration are vital to that. Back in the game, Krishna thinks his strongest shot is the forehand cross. It typically makes his opponent focus on a difficult two-handed backhand with a high and distant impact point. Krishna hits the forehand cross, and Ei-chan does look like he has some difficulty returning the ball, especially since Ei-chan notes the ball has a strong spin. Krishna surprises Ei-chan by countering with a straight, again to Ei-chan’s backhand.

p09


Chapter 437 page 10
…Ei-chan notes that Krishna has been gradually increasing the power of his shots. Anyhow, he returns the ball deep, not intending to give up his advantage. Krishna hits another forehand cross. Ei-chan notes Krishna is persistently aiming for Ei-chan’s backhand. Ei-chan thinks that if this situation continues, it will serve to slowly erode his advantage. Ei-chan decides to hit a strong backhand in order to firm up his advantage once again. However, Eichan is surprised to see…

[NOTE: At this point several readers have commented about what Eichan’s strategy should be to counter-attack effectively. What this reveals to me is that the author, Katsuki Hikaru, has failed to communicate her vision for this battle segment in the 1st set, or she failed to keep Eichan’s skill-set consistent. The readers who observed Eichan’s progression would expect that by now Eichan usually notices these details that everything has not gone according to expectations and it is time to wipe the slate clean, and strategize by observing clearly the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent in front of him and attack effectively. Indeed this is uncharacteristic of Eichan or at minimum a sign of mental fatigue we have not seen recently.]

p10


Chapter 437 page 11
Krishna had cut in front of the ball, preparing a forehand stroke!
Miyamoto’s flashback: Krishna told him that if he can detect a means of escape/survival at that point, he’ll go for a speedy victory with all his strength. Back in the game, Krishna sends the ball to the open court with a strong forehand…

p11


Chapter 437 page 12
…Flashback to interview, Krishna believes the compatibility/coexistence of his tennis with business is very important. Back in the game, Krishna’s business/tennis strategy takes the point: 15-40.
Ei-chan acknowledges that Krishna had gotten him! He notes that if Krishna had continued to concentrate that forehand at that point (the high and distant impact point), it would have been tough. Ei-chan wonders if Krishna had predicted that Ei-chan would have to rearrange (his play) if Ei-chan is doing that (returning the forehand cross with his backhand).

p12


Chapter 437 page 13
…Eichan opts for a difficult serve to avoid what happened just now. He serves wide, but it’s outside: Fault! Krishna thinks that if it’s Ei-chan’s second serve, Eichan will… Ei-chan thinks that if he doesn’t do something unexpected, he will be attacked, so he decides to attack with power in his second serve. Eichan sends the fastball straight at Krishna’s body.

p13


Chapter 437 page 14
…Although Krishna is surprised by the body shot, never-the-less he was expecting Ei-chan to attack with power on the second serve, so Krishna was prepared to counter power with power, sending the ball down the line.

p14


Chapter 437 page 15
…Ei-chan chases the ball, realizing he is suddenly at a disadvantage. He decides to return the ball deep to counterattack. However, he notices Krishna rushing to the net. Krishna’s move to the net apparently throws Ei-chan off (Eichan’s posture is definitely off as he returns the ball). Krishna volleys…

p15


Chapter 437 page 16
…to take the point: Game, Krishna, 2-0.
The audience is stunned that Krishna broke Ei-chan’s serve so quickly.
Ei-chan thinks that he planned to send the ball deep, and wonders if Krishna had also predicted Ei-chan would end up (floating?) the ball. Coach Aoi also gets the impression Krishna is moving as if he had shrewdly calculated everything.

p16


Chapter 437 page 17
…Ei-chan thinks that if that is the case, Krishna is amazing: he is very smart with an excellent memory, his decision making is precise, he can respond swiftly, his intuition is keen, and he is also excellent when thinking theoretically. Krishna has technique, and a body that performs well, capable of countering power with power. Moreover, he has the advantage of being left-handed. Krishna is practically Ei-chan’s concept of the perfect all-rounder.

p17


Chapter 437 page 18
…Ei-chan acknowledges that he doesn’t know how to defeat such an ideal player. However, he reminds himself that Krishna isn’t yet among the world’s best, so there should be a way to survive. As Ei-chan prepares to receive, he notes that Krishna responds quickly because Krishna is very smart, but if Ei-chan throws him off balance… How to do that?
End of chapter 437.

The blurb for the next chapter says “The means to hold his own against an inestimable intellect is?!”
The title of the next chapter is “One Step Ahead.”

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Chapter 438

“One Step Ahead”
In progress
Chapter 438 page 01
…Chapter 438 opens with the score at 2-0 in favor of Krishna. As Ei-chan sets himself to receive, he wants to break back right away and plans on taking a risk and attacking with a shot he’s confident in. Krishna serves to the center.

p01


Chapter 438 page 02
…Ei-chan returns the ball strongly, then rushes to the net for a reaction contest. Seeing him come forward, Krishna moves his defensive position back, then hits a slow ball that sinks close to the net.

p02


Chapter 438 page 03
…Eichan is forced to bend down to volley. He notes that it’s a shot that’s hard to return with a fast ball and it’s hard to control, so he decides to just return it deep and contest the next ball.

p03


Chapter 438 page 04
…[Here, English speaking fans don’t see why Eichan returned the ball deep—and in Krishna’s direction, at that; it’s a slow ball, Ei-chan could have returned it short, just gotten it over the net to force Krishna to chase the ball to the net for fast reaction contest?] Anyhow, Krishna goes for a sharp cross, which Ei-chan fails to touch: 15-0.
Cursing silently, Ei-chan wonders if he had fallen into Krishna’s prediction. Coach Aoi thinks the contest just now had started with what followed after the return.

p04


Chapter 438 page 05
…Play continues. Ei-chan forces a down-the-line. However, Krishna counters with a fast backhand slice. Ei-chan thinks that if Krishna can withstand it when Ei-chan’s already forcing things, he (Ei-chan) will vary the risk in the previous shot…

p05


Chapter 438 page 06
…so he decides to hit a cross to create an open court. He then notes that Krishna responded to it fast. Krishna’s straight is a winner

p06


Chapter 438 page 07
…Score: 30-0. Ei-chan thinks it’s no good. This time it’s a counter that looked like Krishna had waited for a cross to hit. Play continues. Krishna hits a cross. Ei-chan recognizes it as the concentrated attack to a high and distant impact point for his backhand.

p07


Chapter 438 page 08
…He notes it’s his opponent’s best shot, and because it tends to be an impact point where Ei-chan has difficulty applying strength, he wants to avoid exchanging shots that way. [The mental image explains, that Krishna hits a powerful left-handed forehand with a strong spin, while Ei-chan uses a two-handed backhand and the high and distant impact point makes it difficult to apply power.]
Eichan wants to reorganize, so that it’s like before when he can’t be predicted. He hits a down-the-line. However, Krishna overtakes the ball and hits a forehand cross: 40-0. Ei-chan feels that Krishna had predicted that one just now, which Ei-chan hoped to force Krishna to hit with a backhand.

p08


Chapter 438 page 09
…Krishna’s next serve is to the center, taking Ei-chan by surprise: Game, Krishna, 3-0.

p09


Chapter 438 page 10
…Ei-chan heads to the bench and scribbles in his notebook, cursing silently and thinking he lost the initiative strategically speaking, though it’s only one break. Looking at his notes, he wants a clue to somehow change the situation. Something catches his eye. He thinks that when he visually compares the second and third games this way (as drawn in his notes)…

p10


Chapter 438 page 11
…Eichan thought he found a means of survival in the return dash he did at the start of the third game, because Krishna avoided a reaction contest in the second game. However, Krishna blocked that with his countermeasure: moving back and hitting a slow ball. The same went for the next point: because Krishna had escaped Ei-chan’s down-the-line by using a slice until now, Ei-chan took the risk of hitting a cross before it came to that (the slice?), but Krishna had predicted that and was able to clinch the point with a single shot. And that’s not all. Looking at his notes for the second and third games, Ei-chan realizes that when Krishna was hitting the cross to Ei-chan’s backhand with a high and distant impact point, Ei-chan hadn’t been able to return it with a strong cross. While the impact point is difficult, the courses he chose had become mediocre because he feared a strong shot would be counterattacked with a strong shot.

p11


Chapter 438 page 12
…As a result, he moved to avoid getting Krishna’s forehand with his backhand in the third game. Eichan had vaguely realized it in his head, but with his notes, he understood it clearly. He wonders if Krishna realized this on the court…and that’s why Krishna could so easily overtake the ball to return it with a forehand. Looking over to Krishna, Ei-chan concludes this is why he is always losing the initiative — no, Krishna’s been a step ahead. A chill runs through Ei-chan.

p12


Chapter 438 page 13
…Krishna thinks Ei-chan doesn’t have that many weaknesses in when it comes to technique. It doesn’t mean Ei-chan is strong physically, but he’s not much different from Krishna. Krishna also feels that Ei-chan is stronger mentally overall. However, Krishna thinks that it’s easy to tell what Eichan is planning in tennis—which might be a weakness. The Tennis Times reporter, Miyamoto, concludes Krishna is the type who attacks while efficiently managing the risk: he switches between offense and defense with surprisingly little wasted effort. That means he’s naturally an “excellent manager” who’ll continue to decide appropriately while dealing with a large quantity of information. The chair umpire calls Time, and the two players return to court.

p13


Chapter 438 page 14
…Play continues. Ei-chan thinks that if Krishna is predicting the destination of Ei-chan’s ball, then Ei-chan will plan for the destination after that (plan one step ahead?)—at least he wants to fire back, but he didn’t have enough time to devise such tactics. Ei-chan hits a down-the-line that gets past Krishna. As Ei-chan prepares to serve, he thinks there are also times when it’s okay not to think, if Krishna can tell what he’s thinking. Ei-chan serves wide, then tells himself to look only at the shot in front of him, like when he’s in the zone.

p14


Chapter 438 page 15
…However, he ends up hitting the ball short, which gives Krishna a chance for a strong down-the-line— and Krishna takes it to clinch the point. Eichan realizes his thinking was optimistic: mimicking the zone only at inconvenient times is simply suspending his thoughts. Play continues.

p15


Chapter 438 page 16
…continues. Ei-chan hits a down-the-line that goes out: Game, Krishna, 4-0. Someone in the audience comments that this is the second break, and wonders whether it (the match?) will be settled in one burst (like straight sets?). Fiddling with the gut of his racket, Ei-chan reminds himself that there’s a limit to increasing the risk for his down-the-line. He thinks that when things come to this, the option of “moving back” always comes to mind.

p16


Chapter 438 page 17
…He immediately tries to run away when he feels timid…even though he knows that moving back when he doesn’t have a winning vision is practically a decision to lose because he’ll be forestalled even further. As Krishna prepares to serve, Ei-chan remembers that he had intentionally moved back during the match with Yoshimichi. At that time, he had been trying to increase his offensive options. If that’s the case, what kind of attacks are possible if he moves back this time? But it somehow feels like it’s turning into an assumption that he’ll move back… Krishna eyes Ei-chan’s back as Ei-chan racks his brain for ideas.

p17


Chapter 438 page 18
…Still fiddling with his racket’s strings, Ei-chan reminds himself that moving back when he had a winning vision had produced results. He’s beaten when he goes to the net and if his own (ideal?) defensive position is difficult, he wants to move back. If he can derive a way of playing from the back where he can win by using the data he’s gathered up to now… it should be okay to move back.
End of chapter.

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Chapter 439

“The Far Range”

Chapter 439 page 01
…Ei-chan is thinking that if he has a winning vision, then even if he gives up his defensive position… Turning around to face Krishna, Ei-chan concludes that it’s worth trying. He prepares to receive, and Asano notes Ei-chan’s position is way behind the baseline. The development is within Krishna’s expectations, but it’s one Krishna doesn’t welcome.
Krishna serves to the center.

p01


Chapter 439 page 02
…Ei-chan considers it a good serve, but since he’s moved back, he can take it. However, as he returns it deep, he acknowledges that he’s only compensating by returning the ball from the back this way and he can’t take the advantage away from Krishna. Krishna hits his usual forehand cross with a strong spin to Ei-chan’s backhand,

p02


Chapter 439 page 03
…but with Ei-chan’s new position, the impact point is at the usual level, so Ei-chan can get it. However, since there’s a limit to Ei-chan’s decisive power, he aims to send the ball to a deep, narrow spot to minimize the risk of a counterattack—while widening the breadth of the ball’s course within a range of 1.5 meters (in front of the baseline).

p03


Chapter 439 page 04
… Krishna concludes that the development means there’s no longer any point in targeting Ei-chan’s backhand. Ei-chan notes that his target is narrow but broad, so if his shot goes into that area, he won’t lose the point, even if he can’t take the advantage.

p04


Chapter 439 page 05
…He continues aiming for that strip in front of Krishna’s baseline. Hitting that sort of ball continuously isn’t easy, but it’s progress compared to how he’s been playing up to now, so it should be significant, especially against Krishna. A rally ensues. Ei-chan’s analysis of the significance goes this way: first, the breadth of his target area makes it difficult for Krishna to predict his shots unlike before; second, since the power Ei-chan’s using is less prescribed than before, he suppresses Krishna’s fast balls, which is one of Krishna’s strengths. With this, Ei-chan won’t allow Krishna to play the way Krishna has until now. Krishna tells himself it’s better not to rush at this point. The game has turned troublesome, but it doesn’t mean he’s lost the upper hand.

p05


Chapter 439 page 06
…Ei-chan concludes he still hasn’t escaped the unfavorable situation, so he decides to increase the precision of his shot to 1/81, before he’s attacked. He aims for the spot that would be the most delicate and difficult for Krishna while reducing his own risk as much as possible. The shot takes Krishna by surprise, but he manages to return it. Ei-chan concludes it’s reasonable that he won’t steal the upper hand even with this. However, it doesn’t mean he’ll be beaten, either.

p06


Chapter 439 page 07
…If he won’t be beaten, there’s a chance his opponent will commit an error. This is totally better compared to how it’s been up to now, when he kept on getting beaten. He goes for another ball controlled at a stable 1/81. An onlooker comments that the rallies have gotten longer.

p07


Chapter 439 page 08
…Krishna goes for a risky sharp cross to the corner of the forecourt, as Ei-chan hoped. Ei-chan mentally tells it to go out. Unfortunately, the ball is in: 15-0. Ei-chan wonder if it’s no good, but he notes that Krishna had taken quite a high risk with the shot just now. Krishna’s doing that much might mean Ei-chan might be able to do what he has to.

p08


Chapter 439 page 09
…Krishna serves again to the center. As Ei-chan swings back to receive the ball, he reminds himself that what’s important is mixing up his shots from here (way behind the baseline). Even if the shots don’t clinch the point, he won’t neglect change of pace. A rally ensues…

p09

Chapter 439 page 10
…Ei-chan thinks that what Krishna will definitely aim for when Ei-chan is behind the baseline…is a drop shot. From Krishna’s posture, Ei-chan realizes the drop shot is coming, and rushes to the net, surprising Krishna!

p10


Chapter 439 page 11
…He manages to volley, thinking that if he permits this, his strategy here (after this) will collapse. Krishna lobs. Watching the ball, Ei-chan thinks he absolutely can’t give up this point. He smashes the ball and puts it away

p11


Chapter 439 page 12
…SCORE: 15 ALL.
Ei-chan thinks he’ll have Krishna understand Krishna is at a disadvantage if Ei-chan goes to the net because it will turn into a reaction contest. Krishna notes it’s what he would expect from Ei-chan.

p12


Chapter 439 page 13
…Play continues. Krishna moves forward to the baseline, thinking that now that it has come to this, he has no choice but to ramp up the decisive power of his shots. Ei-chan notes Krishna’s move closer to the baseline has shortened the distance, so Eichan quickly returns to his aggressive defensive position – because the game will now turn into a fast reaction contest where Ei-chan has an edge. Krishna sees this and is surprised!

p13


Chapter 439 page 14
…Coach Aoi thinks that at close range, Ei-chan has the advantage; at a certain set distance, the advantage is Krishna’s; and if the range is opened farther, Krishna’s advantage steadily decreases. He wonders if Ei-chan had noticed that, and thinks Ei-chan had analyzed his notes thoroughly.

p14


Chapter 439 page 15
…(The art shows that when Ei-chan and Krishna are at their respective baselines -the close range- Ei-chan with his fast reactions has the advantage; at their usual defensive positions, Krishna has the advantage; and when they’re both behind the baseline, neither has the advantage.) Krishna moves back to his usual defensive position. Noting this, Ei-chan thinks that if Krishna moves back, he (Ei-chan) also has to move back.

p15


Chapter 439 page 16
…Ei-chan goes for another 1/81 shot. He thinks that if Krishna won’t allow him to play at close range (Ei-chan’s forte), he won’t let Krishna play at the dangerous range. In the farther range, Ei-chan still can’t tell who has the advantage, but first he’ll play at more than the usual range. The rally continues. Krishna thinks he’s not at a disadvantage, but he senses danger.

p16


Chapter 439 page 17
…He realizes that Ei-chan has discovered a nasty distance (for Krishna) – which is what Krishna would expect of Ei-chan’s analytical ability. He believes he’s probably better than Ei-chan at grasping a situation and comprehending the information in an instant. However, the analysis and design of tactics using that data requires imagination. If Krishna is inferior there, he’ll lose everything (in business terms, he’ll lose the interest and the principal). Krishna’s shot goes into the net: 15-30.
Ei-chan thinks the error just now was due to his strategy. Even if he can’t win in brain speed, when it comes to a sense of stability, it will turn into a contest.

p17


Chapter 439 page 18
…Eichan also realizes that being able to continue this will be quite tough. However, he hasn’t hit upon any plan that can throw Krishna off balance other than this. But he believes this situation is totally different from the past (the match with Ōbayashi) where Ei-chan had no option but to move back and return the ball. Anyhow, Ei-chan implemented this winning vision as he hoped and won a point. If he has taken a step forward, he will take another step…
End of chapter 439

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Chapter 440

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Chapter 441

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Chapter 442

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Chapter 443

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Chapter 444

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Chapter 445

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Chapter 446

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Chapter 447

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Chapter 448

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Chapter 449

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Chapter 450

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* Reminder that the manga has an adapted TV version with live staged acting serialized as a soap opera!
You can choose anime or stage production Baby Steps for family entertainment.

CHAPTER 393 Page 2

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43 Volumes Manga Published as of January 2017: Sourced from Wikipedia

No. Release date ISBN
1 February 15, 2008 ISBN 978-4-06-363957-5
2 March 17, 2008 ISBN 978-4-06-363968-1
3 May 16, 2008 ISBN 978-4-06-363991-9
4 August 12, 2008 ISBN 978-4-06-384027-8
5 October 17, 2008 ISBN 978-4-06-384052-0
6 January 16, 2009 ISBN 978-4-06-384089-6
7 April 17, 2009 ISBN 978-4-06-384124-4
8 June 17, 2009 ISBN 978-4-06-384149-7
9 September 17, 2009 ISBN 978-4-06-384188-6
10 November 17, 2009 ISBN 978-4-06-384214-2
11 February 17, 2010 ISBN 978-4-06-384248-7
12 April 16, 2010 ISBN 978-4-06-384283-8
13 July 16, 2010 ISBN 978-4-06-384329-3
14 October 15, 2010 ISBN 978-4-06-384381-1
15 January 17, 2011 ISBN 978-4-06-384428-3
16 April 15, 2011 ISBN 978-4-06-384459-7
17 June 17, 2011 ISBN 978-4-06-384506-8
18 September 16, 2011 ISBN 978-4-06-384558-7
19 November 17, 2011 ISBN 978-4-06-384580-8
20 February 17, 2012 ISBN 978-4-06-384631-7
21 April 17, 2012 ISBN 978-4-06-384655-3
22 July 17, 2012 ISBN 978-4-06-384706-2
23 September 14, 2012 ISBN 978-4-06-384735-2
24 December 17, 2012 ISBN 978-4-06-384782-6
25 February 15, 2013 ISBN 978-4-06-384812-0
26 May 17, 2013 ISBN 978-4-06-384865-6
27 August 16, 2013 ISBN 978-4-06-394911-7
28 November 15, 2013 ISBN 978-4-06-394964-3
29 January 17, 2014 ISBN 978-4-06-394994-0
30 March 17, 2014 ISBN 978-4-06-395028-1
31 June 17, 2014 ISBN 978-4-06-395105-9
32 August 16, 2014 ISBN 978-4-06-395160-8
33 November 17, 2014 ISBN 978-4-06-395244-5
34 March 17, 2015 ISBN 978-4-06-395346-6
35 May 15, 2015 ISBN 978-4-06-395399-2
36 August 17, 2015 ISBN 978-4-06-395461-6
37 October 16, 2015 ISBN 978-4-06-395520-0
38 January 15, 2016 ISBN 978-4-06-395580-4
39 March 17, 2016 ISBN 978-4-06395623-8
40 June 17, 2016 ISBN 978-4-06-395689-4
41 August 17, 2016 ISBN 978-4-06-395728-0


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One comment on “Baby Steps Archive
  1. RonMamita says:

    I wish more manga were translated into the many languages.
    Google translation software is a failure.

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