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SUMO: 2019 Hatsu Basho—Day 10

We’ve reached Day 10 of the Hatsu Basho and yokozuna Hakuho is still undefeated, and thus still alone atop the leaderboard. In fact, he’s gained an even greater advantage because two of his immediate competitors lost yesterday leaving just M15 Chiyonokuni in second place with an 8–1 record.

Hakuho continues to look a little stronger each day. On Monday he completely manhandled M4 Kotoshogiku, but that really came as no surprise. For five years Kotoshogiku was an ozeki and fought Hakuho every tournament and the yokozuna completely owned him the entire time. Yesterday’s was their sixty-second meeting, and Hakuho now leads their rivalry 56–6. Given that the two ozeki are performing as poorly as they are, the only two real challenges Hakuho has left on his schedule are the sekiwake.

Speaking of the sekiwake, Takakeisho seems to have gotten right back into his pushing/thrusting groove, quickly beating N2 Nishikigi and improving his record to 7–2. Meanwhile, Tamawashi also notched his seventh win, in his case by crushing ozeki Takayasu to the clay. They’re both two losses behind Hakuho, but if he stumbles they are well poised to jump back into the yusho [tournament championship] race.

It’s beginning to very much look like Takayasu is actually injured. At first he seemed to be mentally off his game, but the way his opponents have been manhandling him point more to a something physical (and probably in his right leg). His loss yesterday takes him to 4–5, and looking like he doesn’t have the tools to pull out of this dive. Still, given his hardheadedness, he’s unlikely to withdraw from the tournament until he actually registers a make-koshi [majority of losses]. I can only hope that happens quickly so that he can begin resting and receiving medical treatment.

The other ozeki, Goeido, lost his sixth bout yesterday, crumbling under pressure from M4 Okinoumi. Now, I like Okinoumi, but he’s got a well-deserved reputation for not being a “clutch” rikishi. Indeed, he’s better known for showing his worst face when squaring off against high-ranking opponents. But he looked calm and steady yesterday, while Goeido was shaky and indecisive. With a record now of 3–6, Goeido can only spare two more losses before he is make-koshi, and that’s seeming almost inescapable at this point.

M8 Kaisei seems to have reverted to his usual unpredictable ways, putting in champion-level performances one day, and then seeming as though his mind is miles away the next. He lost his third match yesterday and now is pretty much out of all reasonable chances for competing for the yusho. At 3–6, he still will probably get his kachi-koshi without any real trouble and be promoted for the Osaka Basho in March. But if he can’t find a way to reliably bring his A-game EVERY day, he’ll probably end up falling back down the banzuke [ranking sheet] after that.

M15 Chiyonokuni got his kachi-koshi yesterday and seems to be locked into a solid rhythm. Being so low on the banzuke he probably will continue to notch relatively easy wins for the next few days before the Kyokai [Sumo Association] rewards his good performance with matches against better ranked opponents. Still, he’s got a lot of skill and may be able to remain near the top of the leaderboard late into Week 2—and he might even be able to parlay his advantage into a surprise yusho, or at least a final day playoff for the championship.

Let’s look at some of today’s most interesting matches.

M15 Chiyonokuni (8–1) vs. M11 Ikioi (5–4)—The lone second-place rikishi, Chiyonokuni, faces the much bruised and battered but never bowed Ikioi. (3:10)
M7 Ryuden (3–6) vs. M9 Endo (6–3)—Two very popular rikishi trying to get their Week 2 efforts off to a strong start. (6:10)
M8 Asanoyama (3–6) vs. M6 Onosho (6–3)—After starting the basho with six straight wins, Onosho has lost his last three matches. In every case because he got too aggressive and overextended his reach, throwing him off balance. (8:00)
M5 Aoiyama (5–4) vs. M8 Kaisei (7–2)—Another two rikishi who started the basho among the leaders but struggled over the middle weekend. Kaisei could still be on the edge of the yusho hunt if he does well in Week 2. (9:30)
Ozeki Takayasu (4–5) vs. sekiwake Takakeisho (7–2)—Takayasu had better start winning, and it would do him some extra good to put down the “upstart” Takakeisho. Of course, I’m not sure his legs are up to the task. (13:55)
M4 Okinoumi (6–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (9–0)—Okinoumi is doing surprisingly well this basho, and is fresh off a win over an ozeki. Hakuho has to keep his focus and keep winning—and he’s got a lot of experience doing just that. In their twenty previous meetings, Okinoumi has won only once. (15:00)

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