Badminton: Locals advance to main draw at NZ Open

Vicki Copeland scores at the net in her match against Catelyn Rozario, in the final round of women's singles qualifying. Photo / Jonathon Stone
Vicki Copeland scores at the net in her match against Catelyn Rozario, in the final round of women's singles qualifying. Photo / Jonathon Stone

It was a largely good day for the New Zealanders on day one of the SkyCity NZ Badminton Open with five players advancing to the main draw.

Vicki Copeland (North Harbour), Selena Wu (North Habour), Christine Zhang (Waitakere) and Kelly Stern (Waikato) all progressed through to the main draw of the Women's Singles, while Sally Fu (Auckland) benefited from a bye to the main draw.

Such is the quality of this tournament though, the New Zealand men struggled to make an impression when main draw singles action got underway in the evening on day one, with a number of Kiwis striking a number of top seeds on a sultry night at the North Shore Events Centre.

26-year-old Stern was involved in the best match of the day session, getting past 14-year old-Tamara Otene (North Harbour) in three close games to achieve her goal of the main draw.

"That was definitely the goal, I have been working hard, this is my 'now or never' time, I am getting old so I need those ranking points and getting through to the main draw. This means the world to me, without the support of my family it is almost impossible, it is a tough sport funding wise so without family support it is just so tough.

And that family support was amazing, with four generations of the Stern family courtside to watch Kelly progress, with mum and dad Joanne and Graham, grandmother Valerie and one year old daughter Kaia all cheering her on, albeit little Kaia did get a little too vocal late in the match!

"I heard her make a little noise at 19 all in the third, it was going to go one of two ways - put me off or charge me on to better things, but it did the right thing."

Stern is determined to make the most of her opportunities now she is in the main draw and see if she can shake the tournament up a little.

"I am only just back into the sport really, I rushed back into things last year and injured myself, the hardest thing was learning to be patient and like I said, this is now or never, this is my last chance to establish myself and mean business, the goal is to get ranked top in New Zealand, once I am there, I will go from there and see what I can achieve."

Copeland meanwhile was pleased to progress to the main draw after a comfortable win over fellow Kiwi Catelyn Rozario, setting up a tough first round match with Thi Trang Vu (Vietnam), someone she was able to scout at the Maurice Pools and Spas Waikato International last weekend, with the Vietnamese player an impressive winner of the women's singles.

"I have seen her play - she is quite good! But it will be a good challenge and I am looking forward to the experience. I was meant to play a Sri Lankan this morning but she got upgraded to the main draw, but this game now is what this is all about, a great chance to gain that international experience against players from different countries, I am looking forward to it," said Copeland.

On the men's side of the tournament, the highlight belonged to North Harbour local Abhinav Manota, his win over Nathaniel Sunistyo (Indonesia) was met with great applause by a good first day crowd. Manota has been in good form but is also carrying a shoulder injury, making his win all the more pleasing.

"I am in good form, playing in the final or semifinals of the singles, doubles and mixed doubles in Waikato last week, but I am also carrying still a shoulder injury and having to see the physio after every game. But today was a good start, I am very happy with the performance."

19-year-old Nicco Tagle is a great prospect, but a hard taskmaster on his own game when reviewing the loss to Philippines number one Mark Alcala in the Barfoot & Thompson Match of the Day. Tagle showed plenty of promise in a 14-21, 14-21 defeat but ultimately couldn't match his much higher ranked opponent at the crucial moments.

"I am not overly ecstatic about my performance obviously given it was a loss, but it was a really good experience to be on court against someone of such a high level, that was great. At the end of the day I am trying to play my best to get the win so I guess I can't be too happy about the shots. Both intervals were critical, I feel like Mark stepped up his game after the intervals and got quick points, making it harder to chase him down."

Tagle plays in the main draw of the men's doubles with partner Oliver Leydon-Davis today, when they come up against tournament top seeds and world number six Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang (Korea).

National men's singles champion Oscar Guo (North Harbour) fought valiantly against Shih Kuej Chun (Chinese Taipei), the 15 year old lost in straight games 11-21, 10-21, but gained vital experience at this level of the game for someone so young.

It was otherwise business as usual for the Open's top guns, top seed Son Wan Ho (Korea) totally dominant in a 21-5, 21-3 win over Xiao Yang (New Zealand), while 2015 runner-up Qiao Bin (China) came out on top against Dylan Soedjasa (New Zealand) 21-4, 21-13.

Another to impress was unseeded Misha Zilberman (Israel) as again it was a Kiwi to suffer with Callum Harfield dismantled 21-5, 21-7.

Kiwis featuring in the main draw today from 10am at the North Shore Events Centre:
Women's singles first round: Vicki Copeland, Selena Wu, Christine Zhang, Kelly Stern, Sally Fu
Mixed doubles first round: Oliver Leydon-Davis and Susannah Leydon-Davis, Maika Phillips and Anona Pak, Shane Masinipeni and Maria Masinipeni.
Women's doubles first round: Sally Fu and Christine Zhang, Maria Masinipeni and Jasmin Chung Man Ng, Kelly Stern and Justine Villegas, Erena Calder-Hawkins and Selena Wu, Susannah Leydon-Davis and Danielle Tahuri, Vicki Copeland and Anona Pak.
Men's doubles first round: Joshua Curry and Moana Hu He, Oliver Leydon-Davis and Nicco Tagle, Abhinav Minota and Dylan Soedjasa, Jonathan Curtin and Dhanny Oud,
Men's singles second round: Kevin Zhang, Edward Lau, Vincent Tong, Abhinav Minota

- NZ Herald

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