(by Steve Hopkins)
The top rating spots in Japan are held by young champions: Defending Men’s Champion Harimoto (age 18) and Defending Women’s Champion Mima Ito (age 20). But both champions fell this year in their National Championships. For Ito, she advanced to the Final only to lose to 27 year old Ishikawa Kasumi 4-2. Harimoto fell earlier, losing to Mizuki Oikawa in the Quarterfinals.
Ishikawa is the No. 2 player in Japan, so the Final was a single upset for Ito. However, with Ito perennially in the Top 3 in the world, a loss to No. 9 Ishikawa is still a blow.
One could sign off on Mizuki Oikawa’s win being a fluke, except that he went on to win the Semifinal and then the Final. Japan’s new champion is a player whose previous highest World Ranking was No. 61 and who has never been higher than No. 8 inside Japan. Perhaps its time for the rest of the world to see more of the 23 year old Oikawa Mizuki.
Check out the three key matches below: the Men’s Final, the Women’s Final, and the Quarterfinal Upset.