31 Dec 2016
Taranaki's Ajeet Rai added a fourth consecutive Taranaki Open Men's singles title to his resume and in doing so also added the NZ Lawn Tennis Championship Men's singles title, playing at the grass courts in Hawera. Rai was backing up previous good form over the last month including winning the NZ U18 singles title and being officially named New Zealand Junior Player of the Year.
In the final, Rai took on wildcard entry Kurt McNamara, also a three time winner of the Taranaki Open, who showed glimpses of the form that last won him the title in 2010. Rai started well by breaking McNamara in the first game of the match and then again in the final game of the first set to win it 6-3. In the second set, both players held serve for their first service game and the match looked to be headed to a close conclusion but Rai was able to lift to another level and show the experience garnered from hard overseas competition. Rai snuffed out the challenge from McNamara by winning the next six games and winning the match 6-3 6-1. To reach the final, Rai had defeated Jakim Malan (Well) 6-0 6-1 whilst McNamara had scraped past No.2 seed Simon O'Leary (Wang) 6-3 7-5.
Rai was also able to add the Men's Open Doubles title, combining with Taranaki's David Geange, to beat Jakim Malan/Simon O'Leary 7-5 6-3, and was also unchallenged to add the 18s singles title, dropping only a single game in that category.
The Ladies Open Singles title was fought out between twin sisters Jade and Kyla Otway from Marlborough. Kyla, younger by two minutes, started the best, winning the first set 6-4 and with a late lead in the second set looked to be capable of gaining temporary family supremacy. Jade had other ideas however and managed to dig deep and win the second set in a one-sided tiebreak 7-1. Kyla's resolve appeared to be broken by this and Jade ran out the third set 6-1 to claim her first Taranaki Open and NZ Lawn Tennis Championship Open Singles title. In the semi-finals, Jade had disposed of Taranaki's Michaela Spurdle 6-1 6-1 whilst Kyla had brushed aside Rebekah Leung Wai (Man) 6-0 6-1.
The twins combined to take the Open Doubles title 6-0 6-1 over Taranaki sisters Michaela and Alexandra Spurdle. Kyla Otway gained further consolation by winning the 14 Girls singles title beating Taranaki's Nikayla Barnard 6-4 7-6 and also the B Combined Doubles with Blake Taylor 4-1 5-3 over Brady Simpson/Michaela Spurdle.
Older brother Torban Otway also managed to snare a couple of titles firstly when he combined with Jade Otway to win the Open Combined Doubles title narrowly defeating Taranaki pairing Jaime Simpson and Donna Thorne in a 2 and a half hour contest 7-6(5) 7-6(8), and secondly winning the 16 Boys single title. Jade Otway made it four titles when she also took out the 16 Girls single title defeating Nikayla Barnard 6-2 6-2, and then title number five when Jade and Kyla took out the 16 Girls Doubles.
Other Taranaki players to win titles were Pukekura's Sasha Milentijevic-Vague who won the 12 Boys singles and doubles with Jordan Whittleston. Okaiawa's Jorja Symes won the 12 Girls Doubles title with Charlotte Elizabeth Painter, whilst Pukekura's Nikayla Barnard and Ella Rogers took out the 14 Girls Doubles title. Alexandra Spurdle (Inglewood) won the B Ladies singles title and Okaiawa's Sheri Hughes won the Social Ladies singles title.