Tashkent 2022: Little-known Tanaka could be the favorite

The -70kg division is full of famous names like reigning World Champion Barbara Matic, former European Champion Sanne Van Dijke, Asian Games Champion Saki Niizoe, and the two French players, Margaux Pinot and Eve Marie Gahie.

They have fought and lost to each other, and there is no clear, dominant player. In the past two years, Matic has lost to Niizoe (twice) and Pinot. Niizoe has lost to Pinot. Van Dijke has lost to Gahie. Pinot has lost to Gahie and Van Dijke. Gahie, meanwhile has lost to Van Dijke and Niizoe.

Few have heard of Shiho Tanaka, who is ranked No. 21. But she is the top Japanese in Tashkent, having won the trials. Her teammate, Niizoe, who is also competing in Tashkent, ranks higher at 12. Ironically, the Japanese player with the highest ranking, Yoko Ono at No. 3, is the one not going to Tashkent.

Little-known Tanaka has had a good track record lately against the top guns in this weight class and she has not been beaten by any of them. She defeated Van Dijke at the 2022 Tel Aviv Grand Slam, Pinot at the 2022 Tel Aviv Grand Slam, and Gahie at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. She has never fought Matic.