And it’s back to business with Baby Steps. Last week ended with a cliffhanger – and thank god the ball didn’t hit our precious Ei-chan’s face. However it looks like the ball hitting Ei-chan’s face may only be incidental to Takagi, who seems intent on intimidation and angering his opponent more than anything, and prevent them from playing the best, fair game they can so he can gain a win.
Ei-chan is flustered and decides to try and channel his anger to his game, but it’s near impossible. He realizes that anger is not like pressure – anger comes not from desire to win, but from irritation, and that can get players impatient, flustered, and can cause them to self-destruct. Ei-chan however learns this the hard way (like all things he learns in tennis, really) and loses a couple of points in the first set, before literally taking his time to allow his anger and feelings of irritation to subside. I always find it interesting how Ei-chan is really a player that relies so much on his mind, to a point where if his mind wills it, he can even control something that’s very much to do with the heart. Perhaps that is his greatest strength, determination and perfectionist nature aside?
And with that, Ei-chan dominates the second set. His mind is clear, he focuses purely on winning the way he knows how – by serving up a variety of shots such that Takagi himself will be too cornered to even pull anything funny. Ei-chan succeeds, of course, and it’s in Takagi’s speedy defeat that we see Baby Steps at work again. Ei-chan is that kind of player that is both ridiculously annoying to play against, because he points out his opponents weaknesses and force them to acknowledge them if they want to improve – regardless of whether he actually wins the match or not.
Takagi learns that he’s not been making use of his true strengths, always copying from someone else’s mode of training. He even (amusingly) tries to ask Ei-chan for advice, before Coach Aoi steps in and finally tells the boy what he needs to know – he needs to find something that fits him, that’s catered to helping him grow and makes use of his natural strengths; like his amazing stamina.
We also get to see a really nice moment between Nabae and Takagi after the match. I find it quite amusing that Nabae never seems to be annoyed with Takagi for all his dirty tactics, in fact even saying that sometimes these little tricks come in handy, though it would not be wise to build an entire style from it. Nabae and Ei-chan are really similar in that way that they just see and approach things differently from others – their minds (and hearts, I guess?) work on a really unique level that shows in their tennis as well. Next week we’ll finally get to see Nabae go against Ei-chan. These two are really a match made in heaven – they’re so alike, but at the same time years of experience separates Nabae from Ei-chan…