Saturday 15 October 2011

New Zealand Champions Made and Dressed in Gold

Phillip Xiao prepares his assault on Tony Liu in the Men's Final
Photo by Matt Hetherington
The end of the Men's and Women's Singles Events at the NZ Senior Table Tennis Championships signalled the making of two brand new national champions. The class act and legend of Tony Liu was too much for the competition in the Men's Singles event, he overcame opponents at every obstacle. At the same time it was the die hard determination of Canterbury's Jenny Hung that kept her on track to saving multiple match points in order to win the national title. Teng Teng (Tony) Liu, having already cleaned up all opposition in New Zealand so far this year to win the North Island Championships and the Counties, Auckland and Waikato Open Competitions. His form was unquestionable as he sailed through the opponents in his group. He hit a tough spot when a determined Josh Alexandre stole 2 sets from him as he attempted to knock Tony out, it was not to be and Tony advanced, beating Josh 4-2. Matthew Ball also had a crack at the top seed after having defeated Simon Wallace in the seventh and final set in the quarter final round. The semi final could have proved to be more substantial in problem causing with the Japanese player Taka Shimokawa and his short pimple rubber appearing on the scene. Tony showed no hesitation in wiping the score board and printing his name all over it, he sent Shimokawa packing with a 4-0 win and made his foundations to appear in the final. The Final had potential to be very interesting, at Auckland Open in the Under 21 Event Phillip had pushed Teng Teng to the 5th set and had even shown signs of having the upper hand. At the North Island Championships it had also been a very close matchup. What could Phillip offer to the table this time? Well Tony Liu was beyond determined to claim the national title and claimed the first set, then the second and then the third and Phillip found himself with a huge deficit to cover if he were to claim the title. Phillip launched an admirable attack and swiped himself a set, but in the end Tony outclassed Phillip on the day and won the 5th set, claiming the victory 4-1 and taking the National Men's Singles Title in the process.

Tony Liu, NZ Open Men's Champion
Photo by Matt Hetherington
In the Women's Event it was also a very hard fought battle and a nervous one for many on the sidelines. Jenny Hung took on the defending champion and top seed Fan (Vicky) Yang and between the two of them they hit winners and rallied, placed awkard balls to attack and generally out-hit each other at high speed. Jenny struggled in the beginnings of each set but she managed to claw her way back to win at the end of the sets and end up 3-1 up. It all looked like things were going in the favour of the Cantabrian and number 2 seed until Vicky Yang sprung back and led a high paced assault against her highly skilled opponent. Before the confident sideliners all knew it the score line was 3-3 and we were all starting to wonder if Jenny Hung could hold on and win the title against odds of the determined defending champion. There were multiple match points to and fro between the two players who wouldn't forfeight their chances of taking home gold. Hung tried time and again to hit through her opponent at match point up but Yang always had an answer for the endless assaults and even claimed some match points of her own. The match was incredible exciting and supporters were ecstatic when Jenny Hung converted her Championship Point finally and took her first ever New Zealand Open Women's Singles Title, one which a large proportion of players, myself included felt she finally deserved after so much experience building and committment to the sport over the years. Congratulations to Jenny Hung and Teng Teng Liu the New Zealand Table Tennis Champions and of course to Vicky Yang and Phillip Xiao for applying the pressure and skilled opposition from which those champions were really born, the silver medalists of the two respective events. 

Jenny Hung takes Control in the Women's Final
Photo by Matt Hetherington

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