Sunday 16 October 2011

Final Medal Opportunities not Taken Lightly

Mark Page rips out his devastating backhand loop
Photo by Matt Hetherington
The final day of the NZ Senior Table Tennis Championships was an interesting one to say the least. With celebrations from the previous day dragging on into the night there was an absence of a couple of players in the Under 21 Mens Singles draw this morning. Tony Liu the Men's Singles winner made an appearance in the morning but was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury, while Auckland teammates Ollie Scarlett and Zhiyang Cheng withdrew from the event. This left plenty of opportunities for the remaining players in the draw. In the Under 21 Men's Singles the quarterfinals saw Thom Nguyen beat Matt Hetherington 3-0, Phillip Xiao account for James Harter 3-0, Myles Collins take out Aaron Page 3-0 and Mark Page narrowly scrape by a 3-2 win over Mitchell Barker. The semifinals saw Thom Nguyen fight an enduring 5 set battle with Myles Collins with plenty of loop to loop rallying and some very intense points which left both players exhausted by the end of the match and I'm sure Thom relieved to walk away with the victory and a place in the finals. Mark Page put up a hard fight against the second seed, Phillip Xiao, now the event favourite with Tony Liu out. Phillip showed his true class and outplayed Page with a 3-1 win. The final of the event saw Phillip Xiao fully assert himself as the favourite for the event by out-shining opponent Thom Nguyen in a straight sets victory. Congratulations Phillip.

Vicky Yang, Winner of the Under 21 Women's Singles
Photo by Matt Hetherington
In the Under 21 Women's Singles four players emerged from the two round robin groups. Manawatu's homeside champion Natalie Paterson and the previous night's Women's singles finalist Vicky Yang qualified in the first group while the Women's champion Jenny Hung and Auckland's Jennifer Tseng were victorious in coming through the second group. This set the players up for straight semi-finals. The two women's finalists proved to be far too skilled for their opponents with Vicky Yang beating Jennifer Tseng 3-0 and Jenny Hung accounting for Natalie also 3-0. So the two women's finalists returned to a final scenario yet again. With such a close open women's final the 21s match could have gone either way, both were determined to earn the gold medal for the event. Yang proved to be a dominant force in the final and avenged her loss from the previous day to lead a clear 3-1 victory of Canterbury's star to confirm the win.

In the Under 21 Doubles events with the top seeds having withdrawn , Waikato were dominant among the semi-finalists for the event with all but one of the players in the pairings hailing from Hamilton. One semifinal saw brothers Mark and Aaron Page with a walkover to the final, while the other semi was the finish of last year's finalists Matt Hetherington and James Harter, also from Waikato. Mitchell Barker (North Harbour) and Myles Collins were the party responsible for this, swiping a 3-0 victory and setting them up for a medal appearance in the final. They proved to be too strong for the Waikato brothers and led a convincing 3-1 victory over to two to take a gold medal in the event. In the Women's Doubles for the Under 21s Vicky Yang and Feng Jie and the pair of Jenny Hung and Natalie Paterson both won their semifinals 3-0 to clash together in the final. The Auckland pair of Feng and Yang were too strong for the World Uni Games pairing and completely dominated them in a straight sets final where Paterson and Hung struggled to find rhythm and control over their opponents. The Under 21 Mixed doubles was a relatively straight forward Gold Medal chance for the dominant top seeds Phillip Xiao and Jenny Hung, they cleared way to the final with a 3-0 win over Matt Hetherington and Jessica Macaskill while their final opponents Thom Nguyen and Jennifer Tseng took out the local pairing of Natalie Paterson and Nathan Watson who had done well to defeat Mark Page and Lisa Yue in the round previous. The Final was a great battle with a 4 set win for the top seeds to add another gold medal to their growing collections.

Sabine Westenra
NZ Veteran Player of the Year and National O30 Champion
Photo Courtesy of Catherine Zhou
The Over 30 Singles Events hosted some fantastic matches. Sabine Westenra, awarded the night before the national award for NZ Veteran Player of the Year was the champion of the Over 30 Women's Singles with a very close and entertaining 5th set victory over Manawatu's Tessy Fautsch. The absence of Kadia Keller-Rice removed one huge barrier for Westenra in taking the gold medal for the event. Congratulations Sabine on your award and gold medal, your teammates around the country are overjoyed for your achievements!

The Over 30 Men's Singles were won by North Harbour's Craig Dye who overcame Eberhard Kleiser and Depak Patel both 3-1 to make a finals appearance. The other finalist was Wellington's Lyndsay Ward who beat David Kilmister 3-1 in the quarterfinals and Manawatu's Charly Talumepa 3-0 in the semifinals. The final was a great showdown between Dye, who was ranked 10th in the National Men's Rankings in 2009 and Ward, a former top New Zealand player and National Men's Singles Semifinalist in his time. Dye took the match 3-1, with Ward winning his single set 11-5, while Dye won his 3 sets 11-9 in all of them, an indication of how close and intense the match was. Congratulations Craig on showing us all that you're over 30 but can still play with the energy of a youth when the medal chances come around. In the Over 30 Mens Doubles the opportunity arose for Andrew Hubbard to walk away with a medal, and not just any medal, but a gold one. He teamed up with David Kilmister, both players hoping to create a profile for Taupo's table tennis club by claiming the national title. They met a team hoping to do the exact same thing in the final. Heath Murdoch and Stephen Hirst were there flying the banner for the recently revived Belmont Table Tennis Club. It was a well fought out battle between the two pairs who were both determined as ever to claim the victory. The superb control of Kilmister combined with Hubbard's dominant forehand attacking were the victors of the day as the Taupo pair took the gold medal. Heath Murdoch and Sabine Westenra combined to win the Over 30 Mixed Doubles Round Robin and took another gold medal for Wellington in the doubles.

The tournament was a huge success for Manawatu with the Manawatu Standard discovering how instrumental Manawatu Table Tennis have been in procuring National Events for the sport of Table Tennis in 2011. It is my final wish here to congratulate Table Tennis Manawatu, not only on this National Championships, but on organising also; the ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course, the North Island Individual Championships, the North Island Team Championships and the National Secondary Schools Championships. They will also host 2012's National Veteran Championships. The workload has been huge. My special thanks to Shona Cudby for her ongoing hard work for the sport and her endless dedication and work ethic when it comes to organising these events, as I always say Shona Cudby is a true legend and deserved all our praises. Also thanks to Joachim Kusche for his tournament refereeing and organising of matches, congratulations to him for his National Award as Official of the Year for 2011. John Stapleton operated as an excellent Tournament Manager, thanks must be extended to him for ensuring the timetable ran smoothly which it most certainly did. Thanks too to Jason Poon for helping in the tournament and taking some great photos to help me in my publicity role. Finally, thanks to all the players who supported the tournament and participated, keep playing hard and fair and most important of all, keep in touch over the season break!

Videos of matches during the NZ Champs will become available on here as they are processed and edited by Win Nguyen and myself.


  1. Matt, nicely written (as always). Great to acknowledge Table Tennis Manawatu - its true that they've done some amazing work this year.

    And all of us t.t. people should thank you, MATT HETHERRINGTON - for all your work (publicity, your blog etc). I guess we should be thankful that you're an insomniac which meant that you were able to get daily updates done despite playing, supporting, coaching (as well as being the funny man) during the day.

    Well done, mate.

  2. Aw thanks Uncle Robbie, great to see you there preaching the good old back of the ball mastery ;)


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