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TABLE TENNIS

Roger Rao, the youngest every winner of the men's singles Roger Rao, the youngest every winner of the men's singles CREDIT: Table Tennis New Zealand

Roger Rao creates history at the 2010 Cathay Pacific New Zealand Senior Open Table Tennis Championships

Thursday 14 October 2010, 9:50PM
By Table Tennis New Zealand
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AUCKLAND

Roger Rao (Auckland) created history at the 2010 Cathay Pacific New Zealand Senior Open Table Tennis Championships when he became the youngest every winner of the men's singles at 13 years and 337 days, breaking a record previously held by Table Tennis New Zealand Hall of Fame inductee Richard Lee. Rao defeated Lingnan Kong (Auckland) in the final 4 games to 1. The final between Rao and Kong (Under 18 years of age) is the strongest possible indicator that the new generation of talent has arrived on the national stage. With the exception of top junior boy, Kevin Wu, all of the men who were actively involved in the attempt to qualify for the 2010 Commonwealth Games played in the men's singles, only Kong made any impression on the event. Peter Craven (Waikato) and Andrew Hubbard (Wellington) were the other semi-finalists, both having recently returned to competitive play after long breaks.

Even to emerge from group play and make the main draw in the men’s singles was a major achievement by Rao, who was seeded fourth in his group behind top seed Peter Craven and two other higher ranked players. Yet Rao qualified undefeated after a 5 game tussle with Craven and easy wins in his other two matches.

Rao's pathway to the final was made easier by the disqualification of tournament favourite Andrew Hubbard by the tournament referee meaning that Rao received a walk-over in the semi-final. The disqualification of Hubbard over an incident in the mixed doubles final provided the tournament with high drama and controversy.

Rao's win in the men's singles was not the first time in 2010 that he has demonstrated an ability to lift his performance to new levels in important matches or events. At the 2010 Oceania Championships Rao overcame event favourite, Dillon Cathcart (Australia), to win the final of the under 15 boys singles in 5 close games when the form book and most observers gave him little or no chance.