In the Under 21 events Oliver Scarlett entered the draw as the top seed in the men's singles and didn't look back once on his way to the finals. With reasonably comfortable wins in his pool he advanced to the main draw. Zhiyang Cheng was saved by countback after losing 3-1 to Bryn Lindsay who later withdrew with a shoulder injury after going through 2nd. Kevin Wu qualified first but was the last of the top group seeds in the 5 groups to do so, Victor Ma and Victor Pollett both losing to their 2nd seeds.
It was Yang Lun Zhao and Dean Shu who respectively overcame Ma and Pollett to go through their groups first and for Pollett it was nearly the end of the road, trailing 2-0 down in his match against Michael Zhang he scraped through the match to win the last 3 sets and still qualify 2nd.
|Ollie Scarlett wins the Under 21 Men's Singles|
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
In the first round Alfred Dela-Pena got walkover against Bryn Lindsay and Victor Ma beat Kelsey Amor from Waitemata who had upset Roger Wang to go through his group. The rest of the players advanced straight into the quarterfinal stages. Ollie Scarlett comfortably overcame his younger training partner Alfred in 3 straight sets, and Jon Jon won by the same margin over Dean Shu, reversing the double result of the recent Auckland Open where Dean had won on both occasions. Kevin Wu took revenge on Victor Pollett who had beaten him in the teams contest, this time Wu was the winner in 4 sets. While Victor Ma showed signs of a chance in his match against Zhiyang Cheng, it was the latter who seemed to be in control for most of the game and while he dropped a set it was Cheng who cruised into the semifinals.
Kevin Wu seemed to be hitting on a lot more forehands than we had seen thus far in the tournament against Zhiyang Cheng, it was a 5 set thriller and could have proved to be the perfect preparation for the final for Wu as he came back from 2-1 down to win the last 2 sets 11-5 with some comfort. In the other semifinal Yang Lun Zhao managed to steal a set away from Ollie Scarlett but the usual result between the 2 ensued as Ollie combined tactics. Heavy backspin play and a solid and well timed counterloop over the slightly weaker forehand of Jon Jon was the winning comination for Scarlett as well as his steady and controlled close to table game.
|Kevin Wu in the Under 21 Men's Final|
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
The final began with Kevin Wu looking like he was about to decimate Scarlett. The first two sets dropped 11-7 in favour of Wu and it was going to be an uphill battle for Scarlett and each set was a battle as Ollie worked his way back, winning 11-9, 11-8 and 11-9. Three sets in a row under immense pressure but he shifted momentum in his favour even by the marginal and crucial number of points that it was. Kevin combined with Zhiyang to win the doubles in straight sets over Dean Shu and Roger Wang in the final, but they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the semifinal against junior nationals finalists Michael Zhang and Nathan Watson who seem to be growing steadily as a doubles pairing. However it was Auckland who dominated the under 21 events and it was no different in the women's singles event where Auckland came out on top again.
|Under 21 Women's Singles Champion Lucy Lu|
Image Courtesy of Murray Finch
Lucy (Guiting) Lu was the newcomer to the draw in the Under 21 Women's singles, having recently moved to New Zealand from China. It was fitting that she won the under 21s considering the following day she made the Open Women's Singles Final. In the group stage no set ventured over the 11-7 margin for Lucy with 3 straight set wins. Angel Huang came through the group 2nd, as did Mariam Seif in her group with a tight 3-2 loss to Natalie Paterson who headed the group seedings anyway. So the 4 players headed straight into the semifinal stages. In similar fashion, Lucy showed no sign of struggle against Mariam's medium pimple rubber backhand and less orthodox style, she won again in straight sets to make the final where she played Natalie Paterson who had won in 4 sets over Angel Huang.
The final was a big challenge for Paterson but as always with Manawatu's champion she invested her absolute best in the fight. Lucy showed pure strength in the topspin rallies with smooth flowing gamestyle and a top level of consistency. While Natalie showed her skill in the rallies it was Lucy that was the dominant player and after 3 sets the gold medal was her reward. In an all local draw Kyra Portis and Mariam Seif won the Under 21 women's doubles and Roger Wang and Lucy combined to win the mixed, overcoming Ollie Scarlett and Angel Huang 3-0 in the semifinal and Zhiyang Cheng and Sara Hu in the final also 3-0. Great results from all contenders!