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SUMO: Natsu Basho 2017 (Day 6)

It’s Day 6 of the Natsu Basho and things are starting to heat up. (Appropriate for the Summer Tournament, eh?) Yokozuna Harumafuji, yokozuna Hakuho, sekiwake Takayasu remain unbeaten. Also looking strong are ozeki Terunofuji, ozeki Goeido, sekiwake Tamawashi, and komusubi Mitakeumi.

The action today is all about setting the rikishi up for a high-pressure weekend that will roll straight into Week 2. An extra win here in Week 1 can mean the difference between being in the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship] . . . or the difference between kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and make-koshi [majority of losses]. For many of the high-ranking rikishi, this will be the last “easy” match they get . . . while for the komusubi, M1, and M2 level it means just the opposite—their competition will get less stiff as Week 2 progresses.

Basically, Day 6 is not a day when portentous things happen . . . it’s a day when great portents begin to snap into focus.

Sekiwake Tamawashi (3–2) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (5–0)—Takayasu is now halfway to his goal of double-digit wins, and he’s looking incredibly strong. It would be quite an achievement if he managed to secure an ozeki promotion with ten wins in a row . . . but that’s a really tall order. With the middle weekend coming up, the schedulers are sure to give him some top-level competition to drive TV ratings for the broadcast. At this point, Takayasu only needs to win half of his remaining bouts, so he really just needs to take it day by day. Today he faces fellow sekiwake Tamawashi, so he’d do well to stay focused and simply get his job done. (8:16)

Ozeki Terunofuji (3–2) vs. M1 Chiyonokuni (1–4)—After a slow start, Terunofuji has regained his focus and begun to look like the same dominating rikishi he was in March. Yesterday he gave Kotoshogiku the stand-up fight the he SHOULD have let him get last basho, and even though in my heart I wanted to former ozeki to visit righteouf revenge, instead we got a thrilling, fast moving fight that Terunofuji won, just the way we were all sure he would. Today he faces Chiyonokuni, who is also looking strong and fast this basho. If there’s any weakness left in Terunofuji’s knees or his ring sense, Chiyonokuni will find it and exploit it to his bese ability. (9:20)

Komusubi Mitakeumi (3–2) vs. ozeki Goeido (3–2)—Goeido started the tournament slow, which didn’t bode well because he’s once again kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this basho. But he seems to have straightened himself out, and the last few days he’s been looking more amd more like the rikishi who ran a perfect 15–0 zensho yusho back in September. On the other hand Mitakeumi continues to be one of the strongest of the young rikishi to eneter the Makuuchi ranks in the past year. He just keeps getting better, and even when he makes a mistake, he seems to learn from it immediately, often putting it into practice in the very next match. (10:00)

M1 Endo (2–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (5–0)—Endo has had a run of bad luck this basho . . . the kind that many experience at the rank of M1. He’s looked very sharp, fighting at the top of his game, but he’s had to face an endless stream of yokozuna and ozeki opponents. Generally speaking, a M1 is doing quite well if he manages to finish Week 1 with two or three wins. Today he faces Hakuho, who seems to be building speed and strength as the tournament goes along. The slap/elbow smash that the yokozuna delivered to Mitakeumi at yesterday’s tachi-ai was a thing of brutal beauty. (11:17)

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