Nagoya 2021 Day Fourteen
Harite. It's hard to say what Hakuho was trying to do against Shodai. He backed up as far as he could to start the match, put his hands down first, and stood up for the tachiai. Then he delivered a series of Harite, or face slaps. Shodai didn't have an answer for any of this and lost by being flattened out of the ring. (Hakuho probably could have walked him out with mawashi grip.)
Match of The Day
Ozeki 1 East Terunofuji versus Sekiwake East Takayasu
Terunofuji should have been most worried about this match before the basho, and then the actual match was certainly tough. Takayasu has been more successful against Terunofuji than most other rikishi, and he showed his ability to disrupt the Mongolian here. Although he got lower and prevented a deep grip, Takayasu never established his own handle. With some reengagement and very awkward slapping, Terunofuji finally got Takayasu sideways and sent him out.
The 14-0 final day clash is set. On Senshuraku, Hakuho and Terunofuji will face each other undefeated, with the winner lifting the Emperor's Cup. This is an ideal way to end a basho. Terunofuji has probably already clinched his Yokozuna promotion, as 14 wins and a Jun-Yusho is "Yusho Equivalent." He also has proven to fight at a Yokozuna level, as if he loses tomorrow his only loss will be against the dai-Yokozuna.
And that dominance is another key element to this basho ending the way it will. It's not just that Hakuho and Terunofuji will fight for the Yusho on Day Fifteen. They've dominated the first 14 days to a remarkable extent. There were some extenuating circumstances. Asanoyama is banned for lying about visiting hostess clubs during a pandemic. (The utter silliness of that statement should not be forgotten.) Takakeisho suffered an early injury. That took out two Ozeki. Then no one else really cropped up as a surprise challenger.
The next two men on the leaderboard are Tamawashi and Kotonowaka. Both have an impressive 11 win total already. Considering Tamawashi is a veteran who was sliding down the Banzuke, and Kotonowaka is a youngster looking to take his sumo to the next level. These are very good basho for both. Neither one is exactly putting in a yusho-level performance. Tellingly, neither will have faced a Sanyaku opponent the whole tournament. They clearly didn't need to have that test according to the schedulers.
The Sanyaku also hasn't been a pushover overall, but they weren't threatening for the yusho, either. Shodai and Takayasu will see each other in the next to last bout, with 8 wins on the line. Shodai is fighting to avoid being kadoban again, while Takayasu is trying to keep his Sekiwake rank. Sekiwake Mitakeumi kept his rank with his eighth win on Day Fourteen over Hoshoryu. They will all be in Sanyaku next time around, but that's about it.
Still, the lone Yokozuna and the soon to be Yokozuna beat everyone they have faced so far. That's all anyone can ask of a rikishi. It's also the basic definition of a Yokozuna, that they are always going to beat the lower-ranked rikishi. While the matches were not always ideal, especially whatever Hakuho was pulling today against Shodai, they kept winning. Tomorrow, one of them will stop winning.