Nozaki Returns as 1997 Japan Open Champion
story and pictures by Pierre Dunn
Posted November 3, 1997
As a prelude to the second and final installment of his story on the 1997
Japan Open, Far East correspondent Pierre Dunn comments, "I didn't talk about
the fact that many of Japan's strongest players are engineers working for
Taisei Construction Company, one of Japan's largest construction firms, or
that many of the other players became involved in croquet through exposure as
physical education specialists interested in new sports. Maybe that can be
an article at some future time."
The clear, crisp, early fall day brought out Takashi Nozaki's
best, prompting him to try briefly for the first tournament triple peel by
a Japanese player. The effort was stymied by the treacherous slopes in
the third corner of Showa Memorial Park's Court # 1, but the attempt
made it clear that success will not be far off.
Takashi Nozaki follows through with a long roll en route to the
championship in the 1997 Japan Open.
Nozaki went on to take the championship in the 14th
annual Japan Open Singles competition, beating Atsushi Mitsui 23-12
in the final. Third place was taken by Akira Matsumoto, who defeated
last year's third place finisher, Pierre Dunn, by a score of 18-13.
Ten players participated in the final two days of the
tournament, held October 25 and 26 on Showa Park's two courts in
Tokyo's Tachikawa district.
Saturday's play and one player's
scheduling conflict reduced the number to seven for Sunday, giving
Nozaki a bye to the semifinals, where he beat Dunn 26 - 9 while Mitsui
defeated Matsumoto 14 - 6. All games were limited to two
Atsushi Mitsui celebrates his second place finish on the Ginkgo
Bridge near the Showa Park courts.
Conditions at the park were as good as they have been
this year, but the courts are in need of serious work.
are under development for adding new facilities prior to Japan's
anticipated hosting of the WCF championships in the future, the two
Showa Park courts are currently the only public courts in Japan built
to meet official standards.
While the courts drain very well (making play in Japan's
rainy summers feasible), other factors inhibit satisfactory play.
ground has been subsiding, creating hills and valleys that are becoming
steeper every year; mushrooms and anthills make play resemble bumper
pool more than billiards; and the holes created by gardeners removing
weeds are filled with a poorly graded sand that includes pebbles as
large as half an inch in diameter - hardly conducive to straight
New Player of 1997 Maiko Naka displays the carefully controlled
style that has helped her develop skills rapidly.
We can only hope that armed with players' complaints and
the prospect of international attention, the Japanese Croquet
Association will be able to prevail on the developers and maintainers
of future facilities to provide courts that can satisfy world-class
players as well as enable Japanese players to continue developing to
In an effort to spur further development, the JCA has
added a new award to its armory, recognizing the "New Player of the
Year" (from among the ranks of those who have taken up the sport within
the last two years) with a new Advantage mallet from the Australian company
Brereton & Dunstone.
The first annual winner, announced at the 1997 Singles
tournament awards ceremony, is Maiko Naka, a high school student who
has been playing with singular dedication since early in the
The eternally relaxed Akira Matsumoto considers his opponent's play.
The 1997 tournament was co-chaired by Masaaki Yamada,
Toru Takano, and Nasuo Oda. Takashi Nozaki's assistance to the
committee was notable, particularly in his preparation of tournament
documentation, graphics, and posters.
Game Results for Saturday, October 25
Pierre Dunn defeated Toshio Yamada 17 - 7
Takashi Nozaki defeated Emiko Wachi 26 - 9
Masaaki Yamada defeated. Wachi 19 - 4
Nozaki & M. Yamada tied 15 - 15
Atsushi Mitsui defeated Toshihide Mizusawa 9 - 2
Akira Matsumoto defeated Kazuo Kushida 11 - 10
Matsumoto defeated Maiko Naka 9 - 2
Naka awarded win over Kushida by forfeit
Game Results for Sunday, October 16
Dunn defeated Naka 21 - 2
Mitsui defeated M. Yamada 10 - 9
Matsumoto defeated T. Yamada 17 - 7
Nozaki defeated Dunn 26 - 9
Mitsui defeated Matsumoto 14 - 6
Nozaki defeated Mitsui 23 - 12
Matsumoto defeated Dunn 18 - 13