22 Mar 2021
 

The semifinals and finals of the Soffe Cup Tennis competition for the 2020-21 season were played over the weekend with Pukekura Park Tennis Club emerging as the winners.
 

On Saturday, Pukekura played Okaiawa in the first semifinal and won 10-5.  Rotokare took on Oakura and only needed to play ten of the matches to capture the other final berth when they had an unassailable 9-1 lead.

Whilst the semifinals were clear cut affairs with one team dominating another, the final played on Sunday was an absolute nail-biter with neither team giving an inch.
 

The singles matches saw Rotokare take a 5-3 lead.  Some of the men’s victories were particularly dominant performances.  A good example was Rotokare’s number two man Blair Crowley against Pukekura’s Mike Erb.  Crowley only allowed Erb one game, winning the match 6-1 6-0.  Luis Silva in the number four spot for Rotokare men was also too strong for Andrew Moffat, 6-2 6-2.  With Will Roberts winning at number one for Rotokare over Jordan Whittleston 7-6(7) 7-5, the number three men were the last to finish.

Rotokare’s number three man, Mike Roberts, rolled back the years to run down shot after shot from Pukekura’s Mark Belcher.  This was arguably the most tightly contested match of the singles, with Roberts finally coming out the victor by just two points, 7-5 3-6 7-6(5) after well over two and a half hours of tennis.  This was a truly entertaining piece of sports theatre, with the ascendancy shifting from one player to the other many times.
 

The women’s number one matchup was also incredibly exciting, with three sets needed to separate the players again.  Pukekura’s Nikayla Barnard recovered from a set down to regain her composure and claim the match 5-7 7-5 6-1.

At number two, Pukekura’s Ella Rogers proved too strong for Rotokare’s Chantelle Peters to claim the victory 6-3 6-2.  Pukekura’s number three woman Derryn Fleming made short work of Alex Macesic 6-1 6-1. 

Unfortunately, Pukekura’s Lili Lay in the number four spot could not complete the clean sweep of the women’s matches for Pukekura, losing to Tania Atkinson 6-3 5-7 6-4.  Lay was the youngest player on display in the final and she played with a composure beyond her years.  Lay’s body language remained positive throughout and she left the court with a smile, having clearly given the match everything she could.
 

After the doubles the ledger had been evened and each team had claimed six matches. 
 

Pukekura’s women continued their dominance claiming both doubles by comfortable margins.  Maree Malcolm came in as a doubles specialist for Pukekura, pairing with Ella Rogers to beat Chantelle Peters and Alex Macesic 6-3 6-1.  Nikayla Barnard and Derryn Fleming also won in straight sets over Karen Cranston and Tania Atkinson 6-4 6-4.

The bottom men’s doubles was a continuation of Rotokare’s dominance with Blair Crowley and Mike Roberts proving too strong for Mike Erb and the doubles specialist Tomi Avery, 6-1 6-1.  Rotokare brought Shane Devlin in as a specialist doubles player in the top doubles with Will Roberts. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it may well have been a better move to bring Devlin in for the bottom doubles so Crowley could stay up and play the top doubles with Will Roberts and perhaps claim a win there.  As it was, Pukekura was able to break Rotokare’s male dominance and just squeeze a win.  Mark Belcher and Jordan Whittleston held their nerve over Rotokare’s Will Roberts and Shane Devlin 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8).
 

This left everything to play for heading into the combines. Once again, the teams wound up level when the matches were shared two apiece.

To add to the tension there was some controversy in the number three matchup when Rotokare’s Karen Cranston noticed that Pukekura’s Mark Belcher and Nikayla Barnard had been swapping service sides to receive from.  Officials had to be contacted and the mix up was sorted out. Ultimately, the win still went to Pukekura 9-3.
 

One of the telling blows for Pukekura was the total dominance of Jordan Whittleston and Derryn Fleming in the number one combines spot against Will Roberts and Alex Macesic 9-0.  Blair Crowley and Tania Atkinson were too strong for Mike Erb and Ella Rogers in the number two spot 9-4 and Rotokare’s Shane Devlin and Chantelle Peters also did the damage 9-4 over Pukekura’s Andrew Moffat and Maree Malcolm.
 

With the matches level at 8-8 and the set count all even at 18-18 it came down to a countback of games. Pukekura managed to just edge out Rotokare 158 games to 153.

If ever there was a lesson in why a player should fight for every game then this final was it. All the matches were played with fantastic intensity and it was unfortunate that a draw could not be declared when so little separated the teams at the conclusion of play.
 

Next Saturday the same two clubs will be competing in the final of the A2 Wilson Trophy at Rotokare Tennis Courts. Huatoki will be taking on Waiwaka in the fours competition final at Waiwaka.