If you held a mirror to the VICTOR Oceania Championships finals, you would see a perfect reflection of participants and results across the Junior and Senior event. In the Junior event, 8 of the 10 finalists were representing New Zealand, and New Zealand took the clean sweep, while in the Senior event, it was Australia who held 8 of the 10 places and had complete victory.
The afternoon of matches at Salle Anewy in Noumea was an exhilarating demonstration of top quality badminton that had the gathered crowd hanging on every rally.
The finalists in the senior event proved their seedings, with the top seed winning on every occasion. These results led to both Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa (AUS) taking out double crowns, winning their mixed together and each winning their doubles as well.
Pit Seng Low (AUS) had a determined fight on his hands facing Niccolo Tagle, as the New Zealander came back strongly in the second game to try and disrupt the Australian dominance, however a slow start in the third game opened the door for Low to seize the game 21-17 13-21 21-13, despite Tagle picking up a good run of points as he held on at match point.
The mixed doubles saw things get a bit heated between doubles teammates Setyana Mapasa and Gronya Somerville – the frustration clearly evident as the match begun to slip away from Somerville, and partner Joel Findlay. Serasinghe and Mapasa capitalised on every opportunity to build immense pressure, forcing Somerville and Findlay to attempt more risky play to try and close the gap, which just didn’t pay off often enough, with Serasinghe and Mapasa comfortably taking the second game to win 21-19 21-9.
Women’s singles was an enjoyable match between top seed Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen (AUS) and Tiffany Ho (AUS). For Ho, the event was already a successful one, beating her doubles partner, Joy Lai, for the first time ever on her way to the final, and she was looking for the icing on the cake. However, as she did in the Casa Del Sole Noumea International, Hsuan-Yu was again in control from the beginning, with her shot choices, movement and consistency leaving very few opportunities for Ho to take advantage of. With building momentum throughout the match, Chen pulled ahead to win 21-18 21-11.
Kevin Dennerly-Minturn and Niccolo Tagle (NZ) had no answer for the speed and power brought on by Matthew Chau and Sawan Serasinghe, falling to the Australians in the afternoon’s shortest match 21-8 21-14. It has been a long campaign for the players, and it appeared Tagle was suffering a bit from his earlier match against Pit Seng Low.
In contrast, the Women’s doubles produced the afternoon’s longest battle, with Mapasa and Somerville combining to defeat their compatriots Tifanny Ho and Joy Lai. With the ill-feeling of the earlier match still lingering, Mapasa and Somerville looked to be lacking a bit of cohesion, allowing Ho and Lai to take a substantial early lead and hold it to take the first game 21-16. After the change of ends, we saw the professionalism and experience of Mapasa and Somerville return, to focus their efforts on the target of winning another title, winning a see-sawing second game 21-18 and setting the stage for a thrilling decider, which they won 21-14 to take the women’s doubles crown.
In the Junior Championships, New Zealand’s dominance was even more pronounced, completing all their matches in straight games, and dashing Australian hopes by winning the two trans-Tasman encounters in under 25 minutes each.
The closest battle of the afternoon was the mixed doubles, between long-time rivals Edward Lau/Christine Zhang (NZ) and Dacmen Vong/Alyssa Tagle (NZ). Both pairs had experienced recent success at New Zealand Junior Championships and were keen to add a continental title to their record. In the end, Lau and Zhang managed to claim the crucial points at the right time to win 21-18 21-18.
New Zealander Sally Fu made short work of Australian Jodee Vega in the Women’s singles final, taking just 20 minutes to dismantle her opponent. The second game showed a real gulf in class as Fu easily pulled away to win 21-10 21-5.
The Men’s singles final was a familiar match for New Zealand fans as Oscar Guo and Edward Lau faced each other in yet another final, having met across the net in numerous encounters, most recently at the New Zealand Under 17 National Championships. Once again, Guo was victorious, 21-15 21-9, leaving Lau still waiting for that elusive first victory.
Sally Fu returned to court with Tamara Otene to claim her double crown, as the pair had a tough match against Australians Zecily Fung and Jodee Vega. A number of unforced errors kept Fung and Vega in touch right to the end of the first game, with Fu and Otene eventually managing to close the game with an unconvincing 22-20. The second game showed a little more clear-headed-ness from Fu and Otene to reduce the mistakes and force more movement from their opponents, taking the title with a 21-16 win.
The final match was played in front of a vocal crowd, as their buoyant New Zealand team mates celebrated the clean sweep which was now firmly in the bag. Oscar Guo and Dacmen Vong took to the court again to face second seeds Jack Boyle and Jason Seto. Guo and Vong have been developing as a good pair nationally, and were in the drivers’ seat for the whole match which, although it was close on the scoreboard, never really looked in doubt, with the win coming after 26 minutes 21-18 21-14.
The players now continue in the VICTOR Oceania Junior Team Championships at Salle Anewy, Noumea. New Zealand will be hoping to continue their dominance in the team event over rivals Australia.
Follow the action live at http://bit.ly/OceaniaLive