Jeffrey Rong was the pride of Alpha Badminton Club at the weekend when the local youngster upset the seedings to capture the coveted Boy’s Singles title in the Ulster U13 Open at the National Badminton Centre with a hat-trick narrowly eluding him when Jeffrey and his partner Kimberley Pearson were beaten in the final
of the Mixed Doubles.
Seeded No2 in the Singles, Jeffrey got his challenge for the Singles title off to a flyer beating Robert Cowman 21-5 21-13 and saw off Jack Power in straight sets before booking his place in the final with a 21-10 21-9 victory over Dylan Keane.
In the top half of the draw another Alpha player Robbie McCollam, was to see off Aaryan Maheesh in a 36 minute marathon 24-22 15-21 21-13 before losing to Adhithyan Gopinath in straight sets. Gopinath however had no answer to the power of the top seed Andrew Hassett losing 21-11 21-14 and although Rong was to find himself behind Hassett in the seedings, his record was an impressive four out of five victories and keen to avenge their last meeting in the Leinster Juvenile Autumn Open back in November of last year.
The final was an exhilarating one, which had spectators on the edge of their seats, and Hassett was to take the opening set 21-14 only for Rong to draw level and take the contest into a decider, when he snatched the second 21-19.
The third however saw the young Alpha player in the ascendancy throughout the final set, with Jeffrey romping home 21-11.
In the Boy’s Doubles the singles finalists would have expected few problems on their way to their seeded position in the final to face No2 seeds Robert Cowman and Adhithyan Gopinath but Dylan Keane and Aaryan Mahesh had other ideas and took the match into a third set before coming through 21-10 19-21 21-12.
Then in the semi-final Rhys & Zac McAuley nearly threw a spanner in the works too when they caused the top seeds a few problems in the opening set before going down 23-21 21-13 but Hassett/Rong were not to be denied the title, winning 21-12 21-14.
The final piece of the Rong jigsaw was in the Mixed Doubles which however proved elusive.
Jeffrey and Kimberley Pearson, seeded No2, eased past Gopinath/Mooney 21-15 21-15 and Dylan Keane/Yuna Luque Sakka fared little better ,losing in 22 minutes 21-9 21-14 but were always chasing their opponents to stay in the final against Haslett and Nicole Joy, losing out 21-10 21-7.
Alpha’s Amber Buchanan will surely remember this season’s Ulster U13 Open with a great deal of affection for she reached the final of the Girl’s Doubles, partnering Kimberley Pearson, ending the hopes of Yuna Luque Sakka and Nessa Mooney, who had earlier knocked out the No2 seeds.
However their title bid was ended by the top seeds Nicole Joy and Zara Pender who took the title 21-10 21-13.
Amber was also to reach the semi-final of the Girl’s Singles, beating Hayley Gallagher 21-15 21-12 and Hannah Shochan 21-8 21-13 and made runner-up Zarah Pender fight all the way for that place in the final losing 21-11 21-16.
BEN BEATS JACK IN GRADE C FINAL
Without a doubt the final of the Ulster Grade C Open, featuring Ben Dempster and Jack Armstrong was the tightest clash of the competition.
The two Alpha players won through to the final without too much trouble, Ben, a pupil at Bangor Grammar School, plays his badminton at the Alpha club in Lisburn had won his opening set against Stephen Waddell 21-8
and led 15-6 before his opponent had to retire through injury at 15-6 ahead and knocked out Anas Nabir in the semi-final 21-7 21-6 while Jack eased through 21-11 21-13 against Gareth Rodgers and faced Daniel Armstrong in the semi-final, winning 21-11 25-23.
Interestingly the pair have faced each other on two occasions since December 2016 with Ben having won 22-20 in the third set of a marathon in the Irish Individual Grade E Championship while Jack had gained revenge in the Ulster U19 Open again over three sets this time Jack having won 21-16 in the decider.
This time though Ben won 24-22 23-21 in a match lasting 30 minutes.
Ben also secured his second title of the day when he partnered Leonie Ward to the Mixed Doubles title but had to work very hard for this particular title, being taken to three by Nelson McDowell and Christine Graham and then in the final by Matthew Warke and Meegan Colhoun.
In the Women’s Doubles Doreen McClements and Christine Graham gave eventual champions Caoimhe McKeown/Leonie Ward quite a scare losing 21-18 21-16 in their final match, and were to take the runners-up Katie Garland and Karen Law to 21-11 6-21 21-9.
They also were to take Meegan Colhoun and Shannon Russell to three but lost 23-21 in the deciding set.
ANOTHER HAT-TRICK FOR CHEUNG
The marauding Matthew Cheung continued his great start to the new season by claiming a hat-trick of titles in the Ulster U17 Open, having already won the treble in last year’s competition.
Having eased his way into the semi-finals of the Boy’s Singles with straightforward, two set victories over Eoghan Cooney and Dylan Noble No¾ seed Ben Lawlor was to stave off a formidable challenge from Wallace High School’s Stuart McCollam 21-14 21-15.
However Cheung was to cruise through his semi-final 21-11 21-14 and whilst No2 seed Vincent Pontanosa was to overcome Scott Guildea in a tight semi 22-20 21-17 the outcome of the title was never in question with Matthew lifting the Singles title 21-11 21-11 in just 27 minutes.
Alpha’s Laura Bell had only played Saumya Kothiyal once before, losing in the Leinster U11-U15 Yonex Open 30-22 but on this occasion it was Laura who was to come through to book her place in the 2 nd round 21-16 22-20.
However her elation was to be somewhat short-lived as her next opponent was Ireland’s Sophia Noble, who has just returned from reaching the quarter-final of European U17 Championships in Poland, having ended the hopes of both the No7 and No11 seed before losing to the No2 seed in the quarter-final.
Nevertheless Laura was to acquit herself very well losing 21-10 21-5 to a player on top of her form and who was to retain her title without dropping a single set with Laura Comer, seeded No3/4 battling her way through to face her in the final.
The second part of Sophia Noble’s treble was the Girl’s Doubles in partnership with Laura Comer as they overcame surprise finalists Saumya Kothiyal and Aishlinn Murtagh, who had been seriously tested by Alpha’s Laura Bell and Lucy Xu in a 21-18 21-17 semi-final having already knocked out the No2 seeds Chloe Koay and
Julia O’Reilly 21-18 14-21 21-11.
Sophia Noble teamed up with Matthew Cheung in the Mixed Doubles and they were albeit temporarily put under the cosh as they fought off the bid from No2 seeds Scott Guildea/Laura Comer who had to pull out all the stops in their semi-final clash against Stuart McCollam/Julia O’Reilly before winning 21-18 21-17, though in
the final it was Cheung and Noble who captured their ‘triple crowns’ 21-18 21-12.