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Small in size but big at heart: Tennis youngsters claim top prizes

Monday 19 September 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Sports, Tennis


Small in size but big at heart: Tennis youngsters claim top prizes

Cook Islands youngster Maka Maui won the Pacific Oceania Junior Championship 16 and under Boys Singles title in a nail-biting match against Noah Ah Kim of Tahiti over the weekend in Fiji.

Maui defeated Kim 4-6, 7-5, and 10-3 in the deciding super tiebreaker to win the title.

At four games all in the first set, Maka lost his serve after having four game points to go down 4-5. Kim went on to serve for the set, winning 6-4. 

After trailing in the second set, the Tahitian player had two match points at 5-4, but failed to take them as Maui mentally stayed strong to hold his serve to even it up to 5-all. Kim broke Maui’s serve again to go up 6-5, but the Cook Islander bounced back to even it out six games all. 

In the super tiebreaker, Maui proved a stronger contender winning the match and the title 10-3.

National tennis head coach Malcolm Kajer said: “I take my hat off to Maka as he stayed mentally strong and never gave up in these circumstances. He is now the undisputed 16 and under boys singles champion of the Pacific Oceania region.”

Raetea Rongo, who had fought very hard against a very tenacious Mia Chang from Tahiti, went down 1-6, 3-6 in the 14 and under Girls Singles final. In the second set with so many game points to convert, Chang ran every ball down where most of her returning shots landed close or on the baseline which caused Rongo to make unforced errors. 

Kajer said: “Mia played some incredible defensive tennis, and turned on the offence when needed. She is a very smart and determined opponent. I am so proud of Raetea for making the finals and the work she has put in by showing up at the courts at 5.45am to be coached and always with a smile on her face at that time in the morning. I’m very sure with that attitude, good results will come her way.”

In the 14U Girls doubles finals, Rongo went on to partner up with Chang to win the title against a solid pair Alisha Kenegal and Ashanti Ligo from Vanuatu 6-3, 6-3.

In the 16U Boys doubles final, Maui and partner Noah Ah Kim defeated Andy Cajigan of Guam and Mii Soo Kwon of Saipan 6-3, 6-4.

“With this win, we claim the regional doubles champions,” Kajer said.

“On our last day in Fiji, all of our players took part in a social mixed doubles tournament and contributed points with respective wins to help the East Pacific retain the Regional Cup over the North and West Pacific.

“Feedback from the organisers and spectators were that we were the smallest team of four players, yet managed to pick up the second most titles apart from Tahiti.”

The other Cook Islands players, Timeri Wearing placed ninth in the 16U Girls Singles, and Luke Pierre managed 12th spot in the 16U Boys Singles.

“Overall, I am so proud of my whole team as they did give it their very best and were great ambassadors for our nation,” Kajer said. “I would like to thank the International Tennis Federation, Oceania Tennis Federation, Fiji Tennis who was a wonderful host for the event, Prime Foods for the help and support for the fundraisers, and Maritime Cook Islands for windbreakers and Onu Sportwear for uniform assistance.”

“Meitaki ma’ata also to the Tennis Cook Islands Committee for their time consuming efforts in making this trip possible for us. Last of all, meitaki ma’ata to the parents of the players and the public support we received throughout the games. It was hugely motivating and appreciated! Tennis in the Cook Islands can only move forward from here on.”