4 February 2010

Taranaki's pre-eminent tennis talent hit the tennis courts this weekend for the eighth round of Soffe Cup in a bid to facilitate their team's chances for a semi-final berth with only three rounds remaining till the playoffs.


Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura will be aiming for an improved performance when they host Central Finance Rotokare this weekend.  Pukekura are unfortunate to sit all but out of contention for the playoff race since they have measured up every bit as formidable to the top teams on their day.  Their title aspirations have been hit hardest through the loss of key members through the season due to injury or unavailability.  The host side should have most of their top line players at their disposal this weekend however and will look to capitalise.  If Mike Fleming plays he should square off against Mike Roberts. The additional men's matches should pit Callum Old versus Blair Crowley; Dennis Reid versus Kyle Crowley; and Jamie Reid or Meto Snegirev versus Malcolm Elder or Shane Devlin.  Pukekura may have the edge here.

The women's matches should feature a rep-quality match between Taranaki team-mates Linda Reid and Catherine Stevenson.  The last meeting went the way of Stevenson 3-6 6-2 7-6.  The remaining women's matches will be favoured by Rotokare's strong line-up of Karen Cranston, Beccie Atkins, and Helena Goodin. While the doubles may go the same way as the singles, this match will be won in the combines- Rotokare won three of the four combines from the last meeting which will hold them in good stead for this round.


A gilt-edged tie between Sanfords Manaia and Hareb Deken Oakura takes place at the Manaia courts on Saturday promising to deliver another engrossing day of tennis as the stakes for a home semi-final spot is put on the line.  Both teams sit third equal on 74 points hence elevating this tie to the equivalent of a dress rehearsal before the playoffs take centre stage in March.  Manaia won the first round encounter over Oakura 10-6 and will take even tougher beating at home.  Oakura however will look to put its best foot forward in such an important tie in the context of the competition.  The feature of the tie will see a re-match between Cameron Koch and Graham Mitchell.  Koch won the last match 6-7 7-6 7-6 that was of the highest calibre.  Jason Mills may play Josh Walden in the No.2 men's match that may prove crucial to either team's chances in terms of the wider repercussions for the doubles and combines.  Manaia's chances may depend largely on the availability of their top two ladies- Nicole Koch and Ginny Death who were both absent from Round Seven.  Oakura looks to have a fairly settled line-up of Sue Oldfield, Miaana Walden, Becky Bruckner, and Shae Martin/Louise Brankin.


The final match will see Stumble Inn Waiwaka host AWE Huatoki at the Waiwaka courts in New Plymouth.  Both teams have endured contrasting fortunes since their first meeting. While either side were searching for their first win of the season during Round Three in November, Waiwaka is still searching for that elusive victory while Huatoki has found itself at the top of the ladder.  Waiwaka was unfortunate in Round Seven to have their match rained out which denied them any opportunity to seriously close the gap on the front four and thus this match bodes as a must win for their title hopes.

The top men's match will be between Mike Lace and Jonathan Ussher.  Their previous match was captured by Lace in a punishing display 3-6 6-3 7-6.  David Lace meanwhile will play against Amrit Rai in the No. 2 match.

The ladies match-ups will be evenly contested as was the case in Round Three.  Krystal Oakes will be determined to re-write the scoreline in her favour against Saori Han- a 4-6 6-4 7-6 victor the last time they played.  Janice Taylor will meet Michelle Lace in which both players who found little game-time thus far in the competition.  Despite their lack of match play this will be one the matches of the day in this tie.