Tennis: Junior girls mainstay of winning team

Sian English
Sian English
A young Otago tennis team took the honours in the first round of the Southern League in Queenstown this weekend.

It beat Southland 10-2 on Saturday and Southern Lakes 6-6 (15 sets to 13) yesterday, while Lakes beat Southland 12-0 in Saturday's early round.

The win against Southland came after Otago won all eight men's and women's singles, and rested No1 man Janos Manyai, who had a sore shoulder, in the doubles. Both lower-order doubles were lost as Carlos Reid and Jong Kyu Kim, and Hanna English and Jessie Stevenson, went down.

After being humiliated 10-2 by Lakes last season, Otago made a concerted effort to get the best players to travel, and the national champion junior girls' team being available made the team much stronger.

It was able to win all four singles against Lakes, with Sian English at No1 fighting back from a first-set tiebreak loss to win in three sets.

The men were expected to struggle more, but the addition of student Alex Low, who was flown back from Auckland for the weekend, was pivotal. He beat James Smith 6-2, 6-1 to take the only point for the men.

Manyai fought long and hard against former professional Perry Crockett, going down 6-4 in the third set. This, after strings broke in all his rackets, completed a frustrating time.

Jong Kyu Kim lost to Chris Bradley in a third-set tiebreak and Paddy Ou lost to national junior rep Miki Nobuzawa, leaving Otago up 5-3 with the doubles to play and with a set in the bank.

The experienced Lakes men's pairs won both doubles, with former Otago Open titleholder Mark Milburn being brought in as a specialist.

Hanna English and Stevenson took their match and Sian English and Georgia Hume had a set against Suma Ito-Shennan and Hannah Speight but lost the next two in tiebreaks.

However, Otago already had enough sets to ensure the countback win. Because the points are accumulated over two weekends, the Lakes fightback ensures an exciting finale when the second round is held in Dunedin in February.