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Carterton end Martinborough’s reign

Gabby Nicholson came from two breaks down in the third set to beat Rhona Lovell. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

TENNIS

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Carterton captain Matt Spooner is full of praise for his women’s players as his team ended Martinborough’s three-year reign as Wairarapa Tennis Regional One champions with a 5-4 victory.

Martinborough went into Saturday’s Gawith Shield final as favourites after beating Carterton 7-2 in their round-robin clash last month, although on that occasion five of the matches were decided in three sets, and Carterton were confident they could turn the result around.

Martinborough made a flying start to the final on their superb grass courts, winning the third and fourth men’s singles. Matt Nicholson came from a set down to beat William Day 2-6 6-1 6-2, and Rick Wilkie defeated talented junior William Orsborn, who was a late replacement for Cory Spooner, 6-0 6-2.

Carterton’s prospects looked grim after Gabby Nicholson and Karen Goodall had dropped their second sets, however, both fought back to claim victory.

Karen Goodall plays a forehand in her three-set win over Martha Wojcikowski.

Goodall edged out Martha Wojcikowski in a tiebreaker 6-4 3-6 7-6, but it was Nicholson who earned special praise from Matt Spooner after she caused a huge upset in beating the experienced Rhona Lovell, coming back from two breaks down in the fourth set.

“She [Gabby] was down 4-1 in the third set but she could see Rhona was starting to tire and she just ran around and ground her down and won the next five games,” said Matt Spooner.

“She wasn’t even playing at the beginning of the week because she had covid and it wasn’t until the government changed the 10 days to seven days that she became available.

“She was supposed to be playing two but then the Whitaker girls [Alice and Elizabeth] both got covid so they were out on Friday, which moved her up to one, and for someone so young she just played awesomely well, but the two women winning was absolutely the key.”

Matt Spooner said that was a huge boost for Jono Hurley and himself in the top two men’s spots. They both won, with Hurley beating Chris Wilkie 6-2 6-3, while Matt Spooner held off a strong challenge from Ed Wilkie for a 7-6 6-4 victory, to give Carterton a 4-2 lead after the singles.

That left Carterton needing to win one of the three doubles matches to claim championship honours and Hurley and Day achieved that with a straight-forward 6-2 6-2 defeat of Chris Wilkie and Nicholson.

Martinborough picked up consolation wins, with Ed and Rick Wilkie beating Matt Spooner and Andi Steinemann 4-6 6-4 7-6, and Lovell and Libby Paterson getting the better of Goodall and Olivia Bailey-Rotman 6-2 3-6 6-0.

Carterton last won the championship in 2018, but the club had not played in the regional one championship again until this season.

Matt Spooner was thrilled with the outcome, especially for the juniors, who he said were buzzing to be part of the final, but he also had praise for Martinborough.

“It’s good to keep them honest, because they’re a bit of a juggernaut, particularly in the longer form of four men and two women.

“In the end when both teams are playing well, we’re pretty evenly matched and it’s just going to be one or two points on the day and thankfully for us went our way.”

In the Regional Two final, Opaki came from 1-3 down to beat top qualifiers Martinborough on a countback on sets. Opaki went into the doubles needing to win both in straight sets.

Martinborough’s top doubles pairing were leading the first set 5-3 and serving for the set which would have clinched the title, but Opaki fought back to win that match as well as the second doubles to claim the championship.

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