North Otago women proved their dominance in the southern South Island tennis circuit last month.
North Otago sent two teams of eight, each comprising four men and four women, to compete in divisions 1 and 2 at the Southern open teams event in Dunedin on February 27-28.
Otago was crowned champion in both divisions.
North Otago’s division 1 team lost to Otago 8-4, Southern Lakes 7-5 and Southland 7-5, but the women came out on top, claiming most of the team’s wins, North Otago Tennis president Josh Dalziel said.
Mackenzie Phillips was the top-ranked female player for North Otago, with Rebecca Dellaway, Belinda Hirst, Nicky Fisher and Jordyn Phillips completing the division 1 women’s roster.
They made a clean sweep of singles against Southern Lakes, Mackenzie Phillips beating Jenny Lennon 7-6, 6-4, Dellaway easily seeing off Sophie McDermott 6-0 6-0, Hirst downing Felicity Oxnevad 6-3, 6-3 and Fisher claiming the win against Tamsin Smith 6-2, 7-5.
Dellaway, Fisher and Jordyn Phillips picked up wins against Southland, while Fisher and Jordyn Phillips also gained a doubles win. Against Otago, Mackenzie Phillips and Hirst won their singles and combined to win doubles, and Jordyn Phillips and Fisher easily saw off their doubles opponents.
“To say that North Otago has the strongest women’s team in the southern South Island – that’s a pretty good achievement and something to be pretty proud of,” Dalziel said.
Overall, North Otago was the most competitive it had ever been at the competition.
“Our biggest loss was to Otago, who won it,” Dalziel said.
“An 8-4 result is bloody close. That’s only two matches that you’ve got to get to pull your way to win the tie.
“We were bloody unlucky not to win.”
Everyone had commented on the strength of the competition as a whole this year.
“Especially at the top. I mean, you look at the players – you’ve got Hayden Joblin for Southern Lakes. He’d be the second-best tennis player in the South Island currently, behind Matt Meredith from Christchurch.
“Then you’ve got the likes of Jaden Grinter from Otago who was a top-100 international junior, and beat Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem.”
North Otago’s Josh Cameron held his own against Grinter, who now coaches tennis in Dunedin, going down 6-3 6-3.
“It was just incredible to watch those guys play,” Dalziel said.
“These guys are seriously good tennis players and the fact that little old North Otago is competing with them is pretty impressive.”
North Otago’s division two team, which was not at full strength for the whole weekend, also held its own.
It lost to Southern Lakes B and Otago B, but had an “impressive win” over Northern Southland 7-5.
North Otago’s challenge was going to be fostering young talent and developing its junior programme to keep numbers up and replace “some of us old ones who are starting to run out of legs”, Dalziel said.
The North Otago interclub competition wrapped up last month.
The A Graders – Keidah and Aaron Bungard, Thomas, Joel and David Pickles and Craig Baird – won the competition for the second year in a row.
North Otago Tennis’ annual closed tournament will be held on March 27-28.
For the first time in several years, junior events will also be incorporated at the closed tournament, Dalziel said.
“We’re at the stage now that Robin [Jamieson] has done a bloody good job with the junior programme this year, so we’ve got enough juniors that we can actually hold an event which is pretty cool.”