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Division 1 of the Southern Open Teams Event is evenly poised after first round ties played at Timaru at the weekend.
Southland’s 7-5 upset of the favoured but under-strength Southern Lakes combination on Saturday was the surprise result. All other ties went according to the form book. Southern Lakes was able to bolster its ranks on Sunday to deny Otago a clean slate.
The upshot is that three teams — Otago, Southland and Southern Lakes — are in with a chance of taking out the overall title when Otago hosts the second round in Dunedin in late February.
Otago gave itself a solid platform on Saturday with a comfortable 11-1 win over North Otago, conceding only the number 1 womens singles match, in which Kaitlyn Wilkinson was edged by the promising Mackenzie Phillips.
Wilkinson was to make a habit of three-setters, going the distance against Southern Lakes’ Li Ying Moroney and Southland’s Halle Faherty, but never quite getting the win. She was to make up for it via her doubles combination with Horley, going through the weekend unbeaten.
Horley and Pippa Sherriff were rock solid in the middle order singles for Otago, not conceding a rubber between them, and were well backed up well by youthful new caps Annalise Wilson and Charlie Byers.
Otago’s victory over Southland later on Saturday gave it the chance to go into February’s ties with a clear lead, but a reinforced Southern Lakes team, which introduced Davis Cup player Finn Tearney and Davis Cup captain Alistair Hunt to its ranks for the Otago tie only, had other ideas on Sunday.
Tearney made short work of an outgunned Paddy Ou, while Hunt encountered more resistance in his singles with Ryan Eggers, winning 6-3, 6-3.
Perry Crockett, given the luxury of dropping down the order from number 1 to number 3 against Otago, had the edge over Carlos Reid.
Bjorn Pollock showed the benefits of matchplay as he made the mens singles a clean sweep for Lakes in denying Mitchell Sizemore.
Southern Lakes’ doubles prowess was evident as they conceded only the top womens rubber, sealing an 8-4 victory over Otago.
The weekend’s results set things up nicely for an exciting finale in Dunedin in February. Much will depend on the availability of key Southern Lakes players.
In the second division, South Canterbury A emerged as the early leader with wins over North Otago B and Otago B, the latter tie being a close affair. Results from Te Anau featuring Southland Gold, Northern Southland and Southern Lakes B were unavailable at the time of publication.