10 December 2006

Taranaki's hold on the Christie Cup tennis trophy tightened yesterday with the side turning back the latest challenger, Wanganui, 17-7 at the Rotokare courts in New Plymouth.  It was a repeat of the score in the previous challenge when Taranaki beat Hawkes Bay in New Plymouth in late November.  But this time Taranaki didn't start so well, losing four of the first singles games.  By the time the singles were completed, Taranaki had clawed its way back to lead 7-5 and from there they were never headed.

"We started slowly, but the bottom four women were fired up and we got in front" selector Grant Gopperth said.  "It was a pretty good effort.  The women really played well and we won all three of the doubles...that's the first time we've done that for a long time."  Gopperth said Taranaki finished strongly winning five of the six mixed doubles and singled out Andrew Powell for special mention.  "He was making his rep debut and won two of his three games, including his singles in three sets."

Powell beat Rob Manson 6-1 4-6 6-3 and teamed with Leith Atkins in the mixed doubles to beat Manson and Fiona Rogers 6-4 6-3.  Powell and Jonathan Ussher were beaten in the men's doubles by the top Wanganui pairing of Simon O'Leary and Brendan Clarke 6-2 6-1.

Atkins was also in good form with three wins, as did fellow women players Kathryn O'Sullivan and Linda Reid, while Saori Han, Nicole Koch and Catherine Stevenson all picked up two wins.  Michael Fleming and Mark Atkins both had perfect records for Taranaki, with Fleming impressive against Kane Newland winning 6-0 6-4 and Atkins beating Ivan Southon 6-1 6-4.

Taranaki can now safely lock the cup away for two months before its next defence when it meets challenger Manawatu in Palmerston North on February 17.

Taranaki v Wanganui
Johnathon Ussher lost to Simon O'Leary 7-5 6-4
Michael Fleming b Kane Newland 6-0 6-4
Chris Popata lost to Brendan Clarke 6-2 3-6 6-1
Aaron Hine lost to N.Caton 6-2 6-4
Mark Atkins b Ivan Southon 6-1 6-4
Andrew Powell b Rob Manson 6-1 4-6 6-2
Nicole Koch lost to Emma MacLeod 6-4 6-7 6-1
Catherine Stevenson lost to C.Gollan 3-6 6-4 6-4
Kathryn O'Sullivan b M.Low 6-3 6-2
Leith Atkins b B.Feek 6-1 6-4
Saori Han b R.Webster 6-3 6-2
Linda Reid b Fiona Rogers 6-3 6-0
Ussher/Powell lost to O'Leary/Clarke 6-2 6-1
Fleming/Atkins b Caton/Newland 4-6 6-2 6-4
Popata/Hine b Southon/Manson 6-4 6-2
Koch/Stevenson b MacLeod/Gollan 6-1 6-3
O'Sullivan/Atkins b Low/Feek 6-3 6-1
Han/Reid b Webster/Rogers 7-5 6-2
Ussher/Han lost to O'Leary/MacLeod 7-6 7-5
Fleming/Koch b Clarke/Low 6-0 7-5
Popata/O'Sullivan b Newland/Gollan 6-1 6-1
Hine/Stevenson b Caton/Feek 6-2 6-3
Atkins/Reid b Southon/Webster 2-6 7-5 7-6
Powell/Atkins b Manson/Rogers 6-4 6-3