10 March 2013

Pukekura crowned Soffe Cup Champions for the first time in 14 years

The champagne flowed as Icon's Sports Tariki Pukekura were crowned 2012-13 Soffe Cup champions after defeating AWE Huatoki 9-3 with some spectacular tennis in the final in hot windy conditions on Saturday. For Mike Fleming, Dennis and Linda Reid, and Donna Thorne it felt just as good this time around, as their last 14 years ago.

With a mix of  longtime experience and youthful talent, Pukekura took a commanding 6-2 lead in the singles, a foundation that would lead to Soffe cup success.  The women's singles matches all went Pukekura's way in mostly convincing fashion.  Pukekura's No.1 Louise Waite had to work hard against a determined Huatoki's Alice Caskey to snatch a gruelling three set win 6-1 3-6 7-6.  Caskey had her chances but Waite was able grind it out as champions often do.  Pukekura No.2 Kirsten Adam had an easier time with a 6-2 6-1 win over Sophie Robertson; Adam proving more adept with the wind and showing more consistency.  Linda Reid at No.3 showed her skill and class, with her flat powerful ground strokes paving a 6-3 6-0 demolition of Chris Wilson.  No.4  Donna Thorne didn't have it all her own way as the Huatoki No.4, Ellen O'Byrne  put up a better performance, however Thorne's armoury of spin and aggression proved too good, to ease her past O'Byrne with a 6-3 6-4 win.

In the men's, both sides had disrupted build-ups with Pukekura losing their No.1 man, Callum Old to work commitments, and Huatoki No.3 Andrew Sangster dropping out at the last minute due to illness.  Enter Pukekura legends and multi title Soffe cup winners Dennis Reid, and Murray Keast, but on opposing sides, both short of hard match play but big on tenacity and determination.  Reid recovered from an early crash into the sideline chairs, to take out the first set, 6-4, with Keast coming back 7-5 in the second. Pukekura No.4 Reid then changed gears and his forehand dominated the third set 6-1, for a hard fought 3 set win.  The battle of the men's No.1 and 2 saw the Rai brothers, Amrit and Ajeet on adjoining courts, up against Pukekura royalty; Mike Fleming and Chris Jury - both unbeaten this season.  In a spectacular match of  phenomenal ball striking, Huatoki No.1 Amrit Rai, went down in the first set 6-4, Mike Fleming proving too steady and accurate.  Rai recovered to take the next set 6-2 with his big serve working overtime.  In the third set tiebreak, with Rai squandering a number of chances to take the set, both players had match point chances, but after some remarkable rallies, Rai took out the tiebreak, the match and a first time win over one of the greats.

Chris Jury on the adjoining court, utilised his retrieving game to take the first set 6-4 and frustrate the young tyro, Huatoki's No.2 Ajeet Rai.  With Rai unsettled, Jury took command of the second set 5-1 and it should have been game over.  But not to be.  Young Rai dug deep and started to make a few winners, and with some crowd support, was able to claw his way back to win 7-5 and then take the third set 6-4 for one of the best wins of his career.  In the men's No.3 match, young Jaime Simpson showed his prodigious talent with an unexpected win over tough competitor Chris Popata.  Simpson, down  in the second set, after taking the first, Simpson buckled down beyond his years to eventually take it in a tiebreak, final score 6-3 7-6.

One could have thought its all over at 6-2, with Pukekura needing just 3 more wins for the tie and Huatoki needing to win an improbable 7 of the next 8 matches.  Huatoki's top women's doubles, Alice Caskey/Sophie Robertson, provided a flicker of hope with a well deserved 6-4 6-3 win over Louise Waite/Linda Reid but when Ajeet Rai/Chris Popata fell to Chris Jury/Jaime Simpson in a super tiebreak 10-8,after an absorbing men's 2nd doubles match, and when Kirsten Adamsí  partner, Donna Thorne smashed a winner to take the second set tiebreak of the 2nd women's doubles, Huatoki's chances were dashed.  It was now 8-3 and the tie almost over.  

No.1 men's doubles Mike Fleming/Dennis Reid  vs Amrit Rai /Murray Keast was supposed to be a given to Pukekura, but with Reid's shaky serving, and Rai's missiles both off the ground and on serve, a glmmer of hope opened.  But when cramp took hold of Rai's game, the end was nigh, and a 7-5 6-4 win to Fleming/Reid sealed the Soffe cup win,and started the champagne corks popping. 


Singles Mike Fleming lost to Amrit Rai 4-6 6-2 7-6, Chris Jury lost to Ajeet Rai 4-6 7-5 6-4, Jaime Simpson b Chris Popata 6-3 7-6, Dennis Reid b Murray Keast 6-4 5-7 6-1

Louise Waite b Alice  Caskey 6-1 3-6 7-6, Kirsten Adam b Sophie Robertson 6-2 6-1, Linda Reid b Chris Wilson 6-3 6-0, Donna Thorne b Ellen O'Byrne 6-3 6-4

Doubles Fleming /Reid b Rai/Keast 7-5 6-4, Jury/Simpson b Rai/Popata 6-4 4-6 7-6, Waite/Reid lost to Caskey/Robertson 6-4 6-3,  Adam/Thorne  b Wilson/O'Byrne 6-2 7-6 

Mixed  - Not played