Hina Hayata’s Finally Showing Her Overwhelming Power — Can She Finally End Up as the Victor? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Hina Hayata’s Finally Showing Her Overwhelming Power — Can She Finally End Up as the Victor?

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Hayata at the Lion Cup, which he won in March. One of her charms is her ability to hit hard even from the back of the lineup.

The All Japan Table Tennis Women’s Single Final was held on January 30 this year. The Japanese ace and the Tokyo Olympics support member met. Mimasa Ito (21) and Hina Hayata (21). They are rivals, but in private, they are best friends. The two, who also team up in doubles, have been a famous All-Japan card in recent years, always clashing in the battle for the top singles ranking.

Ito won the singles title at the All-Japan, but Hayata was a major force, winning the mixed doubles title with Tomokazu Zhang and the doubles title with Ito.

It has been about eight months since Hayata’s silver medal in the team competition at the Tokyo Olympics. In the women’s table tennis world, the fierce competition for the 2024 Paris Olympics is already underway.

Among them, Hina Hayata has a strong presence.

Although her potential has always been highly regarded, she has not attracted as much attention as the “Miyumima” of Ito and Miu Hirano. However, her talent has now blossomed.

At the Asian Championships last September, she shocked the table tennis world by winning the triple crown in singles, team, and mixed doubles. At the World Championships last November, she won silver medals in doubles and mixed doubles. In March of this year, at the “Table Tennis Lion Cup Top 32,” the first selection event for the Paris Olympics, she won the championship while all the Olympic teams were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

One of Hayata’s charms is her overwhelming aptitude in doubles.

He has the advantage of being a southpaw, has a long reach and power, and has the physical ability to repeatedly hit hard and win points even from the back of the field. In the world of table tennis, where the front-row fast-attack style is the mainstream, Hayata’s style is rare in that she can turn into an attacker with a powerful drive even off the table. In addition, his physical strength, which enables him to hold his own in rallies against Chinese players, will expand the strategic range of the national team.

Hayata has won many medals playing doubles with Ito, as indicated by their current world ranking of No. 2. However, their styles are very different. While Ito plays the match calmly and unaffectedly, Hayata shows a great deal of emotion at each and every point. Ito has honed an original style backed by technique, while Hayata is strong in rally battles based on men’s power table tennis. Strangely enough, when these two pair up, they are able to win point after point.

And with Hayata’s rapid growth in singles in recent years, it seems as if he has been able to translate his abilities into the doubles game even more successfully.

Before Hayata’s breakthrough, I interviewed her at the Ishida Table Tennis Club in Fukuoka Prefecture, where she had been based since her childhood, in 1919. Looking back at his interview notes from that time, he wrote that he had reviewed his training in order to make the most of his two-handed drive, which is his weapon, and that he had become more aware of the tactical aspect of the game. The most memorable part of the interview was the change in his awareness. Hayata talked about his own changes as follows.

I have always had a tendency to worry too much. …… I had a habit of playing too much while worrying about whether this was really the right thing to do. An aggressive style is naturally risky, so I often went for it instead of swinging through at important moments, and I sometimes regretted it. To beat a Chinese player, you have to keep attacking. After all, my table tennis is attacking table tennis. I am now over those problems, and I am determined to play this style of table tennis. It was also the year that gave birth to my belief that I could do it.

In fact, Hayata’s aggressive table tennis over the past two years has earned her gold stars from Chinese players and enhanced her standing. In addition, many of Hayata’s matches are simply interesting to watch, as he often makes full use of his dynamic development skills to pull off major upsets.

One game that left a strong impression on me personally was the semifinal match against Miyu Kato at this year’s All-Japan Championships. She made a great comeback from a game count of 1 to 3 to win three games in a row. In the sixth game, she survived two match points in a dramatic match.

In the past, Hayata’s physical prowess made him insistent on rallies, and there were many instances in which he destroyed himself through mistakes. In this match, however, Hayata showed her ability to respond calmly to take a point when the game was on the line, while mixing in slow and steady moves here and there, and her hard-hitting was even more effective. It was a match that showed a solid evolution in the pursuit of Paris and in the quest to beat China.

The current women’s table tennis world has such a strong lineup of players that it has been called the “strongest in history. In addition to Yoshizumi Ishikawa, who has led the women’s table tennis world for a long time, there is a trio of classmates in Ito, Hirano, and Hayata. The “W Miyu” duo of Miyu Nagasaki (19) and Miyu Kihara (17) are the younger generation of Ito and others. The generation below them includes Miwa Zhang (14), the younger sister of Tomokazu Zhang, and others.

Ishikawa once described the rise of young talent in the world of table tennis as follows.

Our generation’s goal was to go to the Olympics and win a medal, but the generation below that has been aiming to beat China since they were little.

Ito and his generation, who have naturally been aware of the need to defeat China, will be the core of the team in Paris, but with the remarkable growth of Miyu Kihara and others, it would not be surprising to see anyone grab a spot on the national team. The road leading to Paris will be the toughest match race in history.

Hayata has always achieved results after major setbacks. After failing to qualify for the World Championships, she won the MVP award at the T-League Finals, and also won the singles title at the All-Japan after the Tokyo Olympics members were announced. She also won the singles title at the All-Japan Championships after the Tokyo Olympics members were announced.

It is a widely known fact that after the Rio Olympics, Hirano, who also had a frustrating experience as a support member, has awakened and knocked out the Chinese players. It would not be a surprise to see the “late bloomer” play a leading role in the Japanese table tennis world at the Paris Olympics.

  • Interview and text Shimei Kurita Photo Kyodo News

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