OCEANIA CHAMPS – Guo takes one for New Zealand

18-year-old Oscar Guo took the Oceania men’s singles title, while Gronya Somerville took the doubles double as Australia again walked away with all but one continental title. By Don Hearn.  […]

18-year-old Oscar Guo took the Oceania men’s singles title, while Gronya Somerville took the doubles double as Australia again walked away with all but one continental title.

By Don Hearn.  Photos and quotes courtesy of Badminton Oceania

The 2019 Oceania Badminton Championships had quite a similar title distribution to the 2018 edition but their were plenty of new names.  Last year, Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa combined for a mixed doubles triple, with Wendy Chen picking up an easy 4th women’s singles title.  But this year, Serasinghe and Mapasa split up and were held to one each, while neither singles title came easily this time around.

In fact, this time around, it looked as if it would be Rémi Rossi’s year.  The Tahitian convincingly won his rematch in the semi-finals against Abhinav Manota, who had denied Rossi in last year’s men’s singles final to take the only title for New Zealand.

Rémi Rossi (pictured right) faced a new and different challenge in the final, however.  18-year-old Oscar Guo had beaten Rossi in the weeks prior to last year’s but he lost a 3-game battle in the semis to Manota.

In Thursday’s final, Guo scraped by in the first game 24-22 and was close to taking it in two before Rossi snatched it away 22-20.  Guo took the deciding game convincingly to win the only final that wasn’t an all-Australian contest and that indeed involved no one from the home team.

“I’m very happy to win this title,” said Oscar Guo (pictured top) after the match.  “Rémi played a really good game and it was a tough match, especially when I was up in the second game, I had to dig deep to bring it back.

The women’s singles was only slightly longer but it had a much tighter race to the finish line before Wendy Chen (pictured) finally beat her compatriot Jiang Yingzi 23-21 in the deciding game.  Chen was the first player on the day to seal a 5th straight continental title but she would not be the last.

“It was a tough match today,” said Wendy Chen after her victory.  “I came off surgery recently and I’m just happy to be on court.  There were ups and downs, but I managed to save it for the win.”

In the fourth match of the day, Sawan Serasinghe took his 5th straight in men’s doubles but it was his first without long-time partner Matthew Chau.  This time, the defending champion was entered with Eric Vuong and they dispatched Simon Leung and Mitchell Wheller in straight games.

In fact, there was a third player who cemented her status as a 5-time winner in one discipline but Gronya Somerville took a break from winning in 2016, when she settled for the runner-up position.  Since pairing up with Setyana Mapasa (pictured), she has won 3 straight women’s doubles titles and this year, the pair did it in double-quick time, needing only 15 minutes to beat out compatriots Jiang Yingzi and Louisa Ma.

While Somerville was no stranger to the top of the women’s doubles podium, 2019 marked her first continental doubles double, something her partner Mapasa had achieved in the two previous years.  In fact, Mapasa and Sawan Serasinghe had combined for the mixed doubles triple in 2017 and 2018 but playing mixed separately this year, each player was able to title only in level doubles.

Mapasa and new partner Tang Huaidong had fallen in the semi-finals to Gronya Somerville and Simon Leung (pictured below), and then the other half of the former champion pair came up short in the final on Thursday.  Sawan Serasinghe and Khoo Lee Yen had not lost a game all week but Somerville and Wing prevailed 21-18, 21-15.  It was the first ever continental mixed doubles title for Somerville and the first in any discipline for Leung.

“We had good intensity and got a pretty good result in the end so we’re very happy with our win today,” said Gronya Somerville after the match.

“We stuck to a game plan throughout and didn’t outplay ourselves,” added Simon Leung.  “It’s the first time we’ve played this tournament together so we’re proud of what we’ve achieved this week.”

There was no rest for the champions, however, as most of the finalists were back on court bright and early on Friday for the kick-off of the Oceania Mixed Team Championships.  Oceania and Africa are the only two continental confederations that hold their continental team and individual championships in the same month.  Oceania pairs their individual event in February, when Europe and Pan Am hold only a team competition, while Africa will keep their team event on hold until late April, when Asia, Europe, and Pan Am will limit themselves to an individual tournament.

Oceania is also unique in running championships simultaneously.  Pan Am and Asia will hold their junior events in July, while Europe and Africa are taking 2019 off.  New Zealand did better in the junior events, locking up both singles finals and taking the boys’ doubles title as well.  Both titles for the home team in Melbourne came courtesy of the doubles double secured by Angela Yu (pictured bottom, with Kaitlyn Ea).

Final results
XD:  Simon Leung / Gronya Somerville (AUS) [1] beat Sawan Serasinghe / Khoo Lee Yen (AUS) [6]  21-18, 21-15
WS:  Wendy Chen (AUS) [1] beat Jiang Yingzi (AUS)  17-21, 21-16, 23-21
MS:  Oscar Guo (NZL) [6] beat Remi Rossi (PYF) [5]  24-22, 20-22, 21-15
MD:  Sawan Serasinghe / Eric Vuong (AUS) beat Simon Leung / Mitchell Wheller (AUS) [1]  21-17, 21-10
WD:  Setyana Mapasa / Gronya Somerville (AUS) [1] beat Jiang Yingzi / Louisa Ma (AUS) [3]  21-10, 21-9

Click here for complete results

For results from the Oceania Junior Badminton Championships, click here

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net