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Focus . . . Jake Gilchrist slices the ball. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

North Otago continues to punch above its weight in tennis talent.

Representative players pushed their opponents all the way at the Southern open teams event at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin over the weekend.

North Otago sent two teams of eight players to compete across divisions one and two. Southern Lakes was crowned champion in both divisions.

North Otago’s A team lost all three of its ties against Southern Lakes, Otago and Southland, but several players picked up wins along the way and many games were riveting three-set contests.

Missing its top two female players Mackenzie Phillips and Rebecca Dellaway, North Otago was in for an “uphill battle” from the outset, North Otago Tennis president Josh Dalziel said.

“If you look at tie results, they probably didn’t really reflect how we actually competed, though,” Dalziel said.

“In my opinion, that’s probably the closest we’ve ever been – in division one, especially.”

Against Southern Lakes, No4 Jordyn Phillips was the only North Otago player to win a singles match, beating Santisuk Marshall 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, but Vanja Andonova and Nicky Wallace pushed their opponents to three sets. Other wins in the tie were recorded by the women’s doubles combinations of Belinda Hirst and Andonova (6-4 7-5) and Wallace and Phillips (6-2 7-5).

Hirst picked up a singles win against Otago, as did Phillips and Jackson Kerr and the North Otago women made a clean sweep of the doubles. No2 Jason Forrest pushed Otago’s Jack Warner to three sets, going down 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

North Otago’s B team beat Southland Gold 10-2, with the women winning all of their singles and doubles matches, and drew with Northern Southland 6-6. The top women’s doubles combination of Rebecca Ryan and Samara Dalziel got North Otago B’s only win against Southern Lakes B, but Glen Claridge and Judith Wallace came close in singles, losing in three-set battles .

“The division two team was really, really unlucky not to come away with two out of three ties,” Dalziel said.

Overall it was a “really positive result” for North Otago, he said.

“Just look at the size of Dunedin and the calibre of their teams – the fact we can muster two teams and Otago and can only muster two teams is saying something.

“You’d say if you looked at results that we’re the weakest team in [division one], but in reality we’re not.

“Per capita, we punch well above our weight.”

Next season, Dalziel said there would be a greater focus on training for the Southern teams events.

“We always say it, but none of us had really played enough tennis before going to it,” he said.

“All these [other teams], because they have a bigger pool of players, they’re hitting against harder competition more consistently.

“That’s our challenge next season … to get hitting. You probably need a couple of months to prepare, really, to compete with some of those guys.”

The end of the tennis season is fast approaching. The North Otago Closed tournament will be held on March 14 and 15 and Oamaru’s Thursday night interclub competition finals will be contested on March 19.