Eager for a strong start, Abhinav Manota and Erena Calder-Hawkins saved two match points as they maintained their unbeaten record in this season's LearnCoach New Zealand Badminton League. Nursing a wounded wing, Manota was returned to court in a Men's Singles clash against current Crystal Ashley MVP Leader, Edward Lau. It was soon apparent that Lau was hungry to overturn the previous result as he won the first, overcame a stumble in the second and finished the third game in style. With victory, Lau claimed his first ever win over Manota, and sent an ominous message to all ahead of the National Championships in August.
In a repeat of their last encounter, Courtney Trillo won a high-quality first game against three-time National Champion Sally Fu. Leading 9-5 in the second, Trillo looked set to earn an improbable victory, before Fu fought back with four consecutive points. Trading blows in exhilarating fashion, the players reached sudden death at 14-14 with Fu holding her nerve to force the match into a third game. Riding the momentum, Fu dominated the final game to boost the Tigers to a 2-1 lead.
High on confidence, Lau and partner Dacmen Vong were in imperious form as they took the first game in record time. A strong fight back in the second game from Dhanny Oud and Ryan Tong was not enough to stop the Tigers' march with Lau and Vong claiming the match 14-12.
Seeking to end the tie early, Fu and Justine Villegas met the win-less Calder-Hawkins and Jasmin Ng. However, despite trailing 5-1 in each of the two games, the grit of the Hawks duo proved too strong, as they ran away the match and with it earned their first win as a combination.
With the pressure seemingly on, young Tigers Vong and Janice Jiang showed no nerves as they cruised to a superb win. Jiang highlighted their growing experience which aided them to “communicate well with each other and work on what we needed to achieve the win.” In securing victory, the Tigers Brokers ensured they were the first team to book their place in the LearnCoach NZBL finals, while the HeyTour Hawks will face a must win match next Wednesday against the OnePure Wolves.
The Crystal Ashley MVP was Edward Lau of Tiger Brokers Tigers.
Full Match Details: Tiger Brokers Tigers vs. HeyTour Hawks