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Thursday 15 December 2011 | Published in Regional


The touring national junior tennis squad scored several wins and forged new cultural ties in the first few days of the Poverty Bay Junior Tennis Championships in Gisborne this week.

National coach Malcolm Kajer said the teams entry in the East Coast event was beneficial for the 16-member squad of kids aged eight to 17 in several ways it was a change to explore and visit an isolated part of New Zealand, to establish cultural ties with tribes connected to Cook Islands Maori, and to experience success on the tennis court.

One hundred and eighty players from around New Zealand and overseas are competing in the competition, which is being held at five different venues around Gisborne city, mostly on synthetic grass courts.

Kajer said all the local players found playing on the foreign surface a challenge because they are not used to synthetic grass, which is considered a fast, sliding surface and favours the flat hitter.

For Kajer himself, it was a nostalgic experience because he recalls travelling alone to Gisborne in 1990 as a 15-year-old to represent the Cook Islands and compete in the NZ National Maori Tennis Championships, where he reached the final in his age group.

In the under 18 age group this week, national champion Lillian Maui repeated her outstanding performance from last week in Hamilton and in Gisborne, as the number one seed in her age group, smashed her way to the final against an Australian player named Alise Nacci. Maui started nervously and lost her first game 6-7 but surged ahead to win the next two 6-1 and 6-3.

Maui and Vaine Koteka also won the doubles in the under 18 age group.

In the under 18 boys, Fred Pickering played four tough matches to make the final of the consolation round and was still on the court when this report was filed yesterday. Roland Neurerer lost the quarter-final of the consolation round.

In the under 14 girls, Tayla Beddoes played above herself to make the consolation final against Mulan Kamoe from the International Tennis Federation Ocean squad, and both had an equal chance to take the win. Their game was still being played when this report was filed. Beddoes and Kiana Sword-Tua were also waiting on the doubles draw to see who they would meet for another chance at a title win.

In the under 14 boys, Jack Woods won the plate final, and Woods and Andrew Turepu were waiting on the draw for their final in the consolation doubles.

In the under 10s, Leandro Vakatini and Elijah Amataiti were second in the doubles, and Amataiti lost the consolation singles final. The most outstanding performance was delivered by eight-year-old Kave Nia, who showed marked improvement and great determination. Although he did not win his matches, he took some games against his older opponents, and played a zealous running game every time.

The two largest age groups, under 12 and under 16, were scheduled to play their singles and doubles competition over the final two days of competition.

Most of the players and parent supporters are due to return to Rarotonga this weekend.