Baby Steps Episode 7 Recap – “Nine Square and Reality”
After noticing Eichiro as a “diamond in the rough” last episode, Coach Miura (yes he does have a name!) has directed him to come to Southern Tennis Club court 1 at 7 am the next morning, if he wants to become a better player. Miura has said that in time, he could be better than every single one of the top seeds.
Of course Eichiro shows up right on time at 7 am, to see that the Coach has outlined the court in squares numbered 1 through 9. His plan is to get Eichiro to hit returns into the numbered square he calls out. Eichiro picks it up quickly, including the fact you sometimes have to hit for certain numbers to get to another, like hitting for 9 to land inside square 3. Eichiro has to learn how the connection of the ball to his racket determines where the ball will end up.
After a quick break in the practice, Coach decides that it’s time for live balls. Who should show up but Takuma, our resident kuudere! Takuma won the Junior Tournament, but he had to go to 3 sets in both the semi-final and final. The final also included two tiebreakers, meaning he didn’t exactly blow anyone out of the water. Miura didn’t just bring him out here to find out his results though, as he wants him to play a match against Eichiro. “I believe you’ll learn just the lesson you need right now,” he quips. It will be a one set match, with Takuma serving first.
Eichiro takes the first point from Takuma using the combination of his eyes, mind and ball control. However Takuma counters with something you can’t beat with just your smarts – speed and velocity. He combines that with faking the direction of his shots so that Eichiro is out of position for returns. Coach taught him the theory earlier with the nine-square drill, and Takuma is teaching him the reality.
We learn that Takuma’s slump began two years ago when he was beaten soundly by a much stronger opponent, much like what is happening to Eichiro right now. Takuma wins the practice match 6-0, cementing his dominance. Coach Miura hopes that these two can push each other to their next levels, and this match can be the start of that. Seventeen year old Takuma is right at the critical time to go pro. Eichiro is 15, an very late start for a tennis player. In comparison, Takuma has been playing tennis since he was 5.
Eichiro understands that he can’t beat Takuma at all at the moment, but he’s got to at least try to get better. This makes Takuma think about his own attitude; “he makes it sound like I gave up before trying.” Well, yes. You kind of did dude. Coach works out an agreement between the two (Takuma being less willing) that during summer break Takuma will help Eichiro practice. After continuous practice matches (gonna need a sports montage), Coach alerts him to a smaller tournament coming up. The top players won’t be in the tournament, so it’s probably the best for Eichiro to start off in. Takuma definitely seems to be firmly in the kuudere camp now; it even seems like he values Eichiro as a pal a bit. Though don’t tell him that!
I know that these last couple of episodes have been training episodes, but I like that they are taking the time to show Eichiro’s gradual improvement instead of just his outright instant talent explosion. He’ll get there, but only with time and practice. I would have liked to found out how Natsu did in the tournament though. Apparently she’s not in the manga as much, so either her part was beefed up for the anime, or she’s been in more of the anime that she will be in the future. Maybe don’t make the whole ending theme song about her then! Oh well, it’s a minor gripe for a pretty good show so far.