By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, Shohei Ohtani has a pitching setback, the FIBA World Championships take place in the Philippines, and a Chinese tennis player sets a milestone.
Ohtani’s injury does not slow him down
In August, Ohtani stole his 20th base of the season. Along with his 40 home runs, it is the second time he has done it with the Angels. He is only the 8th player in Major League Baseball history to accomplish this. He also is the only player to do this while pitching and hitting.
But Ohtani’s time on the mound this year will be over and maybe next year. In late August, Ohtani had to leave a game while on the mound due to arm issues. It turns out that he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The injury is common in pitchers and likely means that Ohtani may face surgery to repair the torn ligament and rehabilitate the arm. Fortunately for Ohtani, he can still be used as a hitter.
While Ohtani should be a favorite to win the Most Valuable Player in the American League this year, he has sustained several injuries over his career which may mean he will no longer be a dual threat and focus just on hitting. Still, he will be a sought-after free agent as his contract with the Angels expires this year.
FIBA World Cup hosted in Asia
Last month, the Federation International de Basketball (FIBA) World Cup started its men’s basketball tournament, which determines which countries will make it to the Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024. The games were hosted jointly by Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia with Japan and the Philippines getting automatic bids, but Indonesia was required to qualify for the tournament to ensure it was competitive. Indonesia did not qualify in the Asia Cup to obtain a bid.
Thirty-two teams competed in the World Cup which culminates on Sept. 10. China, Japan, and the Philippines were the three countries with teams that made it to the World Cup. One of the three will get an automatic bid to the Olympics out of the Asian countries based on its record in the tournament. Japan scored an upset victory over Finland in the group round of play and China defeated Angola. The Philippines defeated China for its only win.
There are some familiar faces for some of the Asian teams. Team Philippines is led by Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson. His mother is Filipino and Clarkson has been playing for the Filipino national team with the hopes of the country breaking through and making it to the Olympics. Team China includes Kyle Anderson of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He became a Chinese citizen ahead of the 2023 World Cup. He had previously played for Team USA.
Chinese male tennis player serves upset at US Open
The US Open Tennis Tournament started up in Flushing Meadows, New York and Chinese tennis star Zhizhen Zhang scored one of the biggest upsets in the first week. The 6-foot-4, 26-year-old upset Casper Ruud, the number 5 ranked player in the world in the second round of the hard court tournament. With the five-set victory, Zhang became the first Chinese man to earn a win over a Top 5 opponent. Zhang was not able to advance past round 3 as he fell to Australia’s Rinky Hijikata in the fourth round. Notably, Hijikata was born to Japanese immigrants to Australia. Hijikata’s father was a tennis instructor as Rinky took up the sport when he was very young. In turn, Hijikata lost to the United States’ Frances Tiafoe, the 10th ranked player in the world.
In addition to playing singles, Zhang played doubles with Columbia’s Daniel Galan. Unfortunately, the duo fell in the first round of the tournament.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.