The Southland Table Tennis Open was held in the Lindisfarne St Table Tennis Stadium recently.
With entries well up on previous years, the stadium's capacity was stretched with the flagship men's open final being contested at 9pm after the first match had started 12 hours earlier.
A quality entry in the ILT-sponsored event made up the men's field headed by Jono Wang from Canterbury, Ben Duffy and Andrew Marr from Otago and local prodigy Michael Zhang.
The men's open was littered with upsets, none more so than when over-50 veteran Grant Wilson from Canterbury beat second seed Duffy comfortably in the quarterfinal and then prevailed in a marathon seven set 4-3 victory in the semifinal over Zhang.
Christian Casper from Otago upset his compatriot Marr in another quarterfinal but could not back up the win in the semifinal despite leading Wang two sets to nil, losing eventually 4-2. Wang was impressive with his short spin serves and heavy looping topspin and was a deserved 4-1 winner in a one-sided final over Wilson.
Debbie Garrett retained her women's open title over a quality women's field including runner-up Shelley Neal and ex-Southlander Gemma Buzzard, now living in Christchurch.
Wang and Wilson combined to take out the men's doubles coming from 2-1 down against Zhang and Duffy, while Garrett teamed up with another ex-Southlander, Willie Brock's from Otago to take out the mixed doubles title.
Garrett won the over-40s final from Neal while Garrett's mother Ngaire, returning from the world veterans championships in Auckland, took out the over-60 singles and Colin Tipper from Otago the over-60 men's. Tipper combined with Lynley Routhan from Gore to win the mixed doubles title.
Wilson was too strong for the over-50 men's field, Marr winning the over-40s and Casper winning the over-30s, repeating his open victory over Marr. Wang convincingly beat Zhang in the under-30s.
Greg Buzzard won the over-40s men's and mixed doubles with long-time partner Richard Cavanagh and the world's youngest over-40 player Shelley Neal. Marr and Casper won the over-30 doubles and Wang and Gemma Buzzard the under-30s.
A large junior contingent competed in the five age groups with locals Zhang, Matt Shields, Damien Mitchell, Andrew Fleming, Harry McLean and Finn Holden expected to dominate the boys along with Alex Wilson of Canterbury. Local players Laura Geraghty, Holly Wu and Shelley Mitchell were expected to dominate the girls age groups along with Oamaruvian Lucy Paton.
Again the day was full of surprises. Hai Thien Tran, who recently arrived from Vietnam with his civil engineer father Vhi Ci and is studying at SIT, won the under 15s boys with a brilliant display of blocking against Alex Wilson in the semifinal and backed it up with a comprehensive display against Shields in the final.
Finn Holden was dominant in the under-11 boys prevailing over Hayden Wu. Holden was runner-up to Long Nguyen of Otago in a close fought under-13 final.
Zhang comfortably won the under-18 and -21 titles. Wilson and Harry McLean combined well to win the under-15 doubles and upset the more senior combination of Jade Wirepa and Tavish Voight from Otago to win the under-18 title, winning each of the last three sets 13-11.
Wirepa and Voight went on to win the under-21 men's doubles.
The girls age groups were taken out by Maeghan Casey in the under-11s with sister Natascha runner-up. Maia Cavanagh won the under-13s in a close-fought five setter with Casey. Holly Wu won the under-15s and under-18s titles with Laura Geraghty and Paton runners-up respectively.
Holden and Casey had great days, combining to win the under-11 mixed doubles and Holden the boys under-11 doubles with Wu. Casey won the girls under-11 with sister Natascha. Holden took out the under-13 mixed with Lexie Ritchie, Alex Wilson and Laura Geraghty, the under-15 mixed and Matt Shields and Paton the under-18. Nathan Geraghty took out the second grade title despite playing with a borrowed bat.
- The Southland Times