18 Feb 2018

Taranaki Reclaim the Christie Cup

The Taranaki representative tennis team took on Manawatu on Sunday at Pukekura tennis courts in a challenge for the Christie Cup. The Christie Cup is a challenge trophy between Wanganui, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa and Manawatu Associations. Taranaki managed to overcome their rivals 13 rubbers to 11.

After the singles the teams were tied with 6 matches each. The men, led by Ajeet Rai at number one, conceded only one match to Manawatu. Hamish Mead showed real character in his match at number 4. A 2-6 first set loss was quickly forgotten as Mead reeled off the next two sets 6-3 6-1. The womenís results evened the ledger with Alice Caskey being the only Taranaki woman to record a win over Bridget Dickins at number 2.

The doubles would turn out to be where Taranaki managed to swing the tie in their favour. The men, having controlled proceedings in the singles, continued in the same vein in the doubles, winning all 3 matches. Most notable was the battle between the second pairings. It is not often a 6-0 set is followed with two sets going to the opposing team; unfortunately for Manawatu, this is exactly what transpired. Jayden Harrison and Blair Crowley fought valiantly to triumph 7-6 in the second set and then cantered away with the third, 6-1.

The womenís doubles was where form sheets were thrown out the window. Nikayla Barnard and Alice Caskey earned themselves a hard fought 7-5 2-6 7-5 victory. This was followed up by Ella Rogers and Sue Oldfield winning 7-5 7-6(5). Only one of these four players won their singles and the other three did not even claim a set. These women combining to upset their more fancied Manawatu counterparts gave Taranaki a healthy lead heading into the mixed.  

Manawatu needed to win 5 of the 6 mixed doubles matches to force a countback. A big ask when they had been dominated so resoundingly in the doubles. Manawatu fell 1 match short. Taranaki cunningly targeted two of the rubbers to attempt to assure victory. Ajeet Rai was always going to be tough to beat in the 1 spot so Nikayla Barnard (Taranakiís top woman) dropped down to play in the 3 pairing with Jordan Fleming. Fleming played 2 in the singles and so was also dropping down to play in this match up. The ploy nearly backfired when Fleming and Barnard conceded the second set. Thankfully, they regrouped and took the third set 7-5. Rai, as expected, combined with Alice Caskey to win their combine 6-3 6-4.

 The Christie Cup has not been held by Taranaki since the 2011-12 season.

Taranaki B also took on Manawatu B. Taranaki claimed the Cleland Cup 23-1. A successful day for Taranaki tennis all round.