by Wade Townsend
In a thrilling matchup between ex-university teammates, Yuki Hirano has progressed to the semi-finals at the All Japan Championships with a narrow 4-3 victory over Takuya Jin.
Yuki’s sister Sayaka was a five-time winner of the Women’s Singles title at the event. Now that she is retired it might be time for the younger sibling to take top position on the podium. If he can, it will be a first in All Japan Championship history.
But Hirano has a tough Sunday ahead of him; his semi-final opponent will be Jun Mizutani.
The defending champion secured his place in the semi-final stage with a 4-1 win over Yuto Kizukuri.
Kizukuri managed to scrape a game, taking the second 12-10. But it was a steady decline after that small taste of hope, losing the next three games 11-7, 11-5, 11-4.
In the opposite half of the draw Kazuhiro Yoshimura defeated Jin Ueda 4-2, earning a place in the semi-final and also a possible place in the history books.
Kazuhiro is the younger brother of Maharu Yoshimura. Maharu is certainly the more well known of the pair, being a member of the silver medal winning Japanese men’s team at the 2016 Rio Olympics and currently ranked within the top 30 players in the world.
He was also Men’s Singles winner at the 2012 All Japan Championships.
Only Maharu and Koki Niwa have defeated Jun Mizutani in the past 11 years of the event, both doing so in the final. If Kazuhiro Yoshimura can make it to the top of the podium it will be the first time brothers have claimed the national title.
In the bottom half of the draw, experience triumphed in the match between 36 year old Kaii Yoshida and 18 year old Tonin Ryuzaki. It was a comfortable win for Yoshida, dropping only one game as he quickly booked his place in the semi-final.
A permanent fixture at the All Japan Championships for more than a decade, Yoshida’s consistent level at the event is outstanding as he continues to be the flag bearer for the penholder style in Japan. Another classic final matchup between Yoshida and Mizutani could well be on the cards.
Semi-final action for the Men’s Singles commences tomorrow at 12pm local time.
And while you’re waiting for the matches, why not checkout Kazuhiro Yoshimura’s Instagram feed and get to know the younger Yoshimura a little better.