The New Zealand u19 Championships has concluded with mixed results for the eight North Harbour players that made the trek to Christchurch over Matariki weekend.
Following a successful campaign the week prior at the New Zealand Junior Team Championships, the players had their sights set on increasing their national titles, this time as individuals. Chris Benzie, in his last year as a junior, was potentially looking to secure three titles from three events. Playing with long time boy’s/men’s doubles partner, Daniel Hu and fellow North Harbour team member, Berry Ng in the mixed doubles, Benzie was on track after not being challenged in the earlier rounds. First up, the men’s singles final, lasting 58 minutes against Auckland’s Daniel Hu, played out over three games with each game going to extension. It was a match worthy of a final that could have gone either way. Hu lost the first 20-22 but bounced back to take the next two 22-20 24-22.
In the men’s doubles final, Benzie needed to bed his singles disappointment to execute a strong match against Waikato’s Raphael Deloy and partner Samuel Navara (WN). Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for Benzie and Hu’s final men’s doubles match as juniors, as their opponents came out with more fire in their bellies and the podium in their sights winning 21-13 21-18.
The mixed doubles final was the last opportunity for Benzie to snag a New Zealand u19 title with partner Berry Ng. Unseeded, they confidently made their way through four rounds to face Lezhi Zhu (HB) and Camellia Zhou (AK) in the final. Dropping the first game 19-21, it was a turning point for the North Harbour pair who won the next two games convincingly 21-14 21-12, to secure the 2023 U19 mixed doubles title.
Josephine Zhao, a first year u17 player stormed her way into women’s singles final against fellow North Harbour teammate Amanda Ting. Ting, who was unseeded, would acknowledge her preference is for doubles and mixed doubles as apposed to singles, played a mammoth match against the number one seed Victoria Guo (WKO) in the semifinals to progress to the final. Zhao, seeded second did not have it all her own way in the final against Ting, winning the first game before losing the second, and then picking herself back up to take the third with the final score 21-12 17-21 21-11.
Having played a starring role in her team win at the recent national championships, Smile Li and partner Victoria Guo came into the tournament unseeded. After the second seeds were eliminated in their first match, the draw was wide open for a place in the final against the seasoned pair of Berry Ng and Amanda Ting (NH). Taking every opportunity they had, the pair of Li and Guo had the better of their opposition beating them in three games 18-21 21-18 21-8.
Waitakere u15 Open
Meanwhile at Badminton Waitakere, the u15 Open was being played with a number of North Harbour players involved. The girls were the stars of the show, with three of the four semifinal positions secured by North Harbour players in the singles and doubles. Yanxi Liu and Natalie Ting won the girls doubles over Becky Lin and Qixuan Yang (WTK) 21-10 21-10 before Liu beating Shuyu Lu (NH) in the girls singles final 21-10 16-21 21-7. Natalie Ting picked up a second title winning the mixed doubles with Oscar Wu (CM) 21-13 19-21 21-8.