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After eight years of waiting Palmerston North Boys' High School finally won the Super 8 tennis tournament for a fourth time.
Three times in the last four years they have finished runners-up, but in Napier they mastered all opponents and a week later conquered New Plymouth Boys' High School to qualify for Nationals in Auckland in April.
The captain of the Palmerston North team is Zared Griffiths. The Year 13 only took up competitive tennis two years ago. He is delighted with the performance of the team.
"The Nationals are being held at Stanley Street where they play the ASB Classic and Heineken Open. It will be really exciting to play at such a good venue. Personally I feel like I have improved a lot in the last couple of years. I am really enjoying my tennis," Griffiths says.
At the Super 8 tournament, four singles and two doubles matches are played over three sets. The team who reaches four overall victories is the winner of the rubber.
Palmerston North had an easy start accounting for Napier Boys' High School B (a late replacement for Rotorua BHS), but New Plymouth BHS and Hamilton BHS would provide far tougher resistance.
New Plymouth boats Ajeet Rai who is the top-ranked under-16 player in the country. Rai won his singles match, but Palmerston North took the tie 4-2. A particularly tight win by Kurt Amey was crucial in swigging fortunes Palmerston's way. Hamilton BHS was accounted for 5-1.
The conditions for the semi-final against the premier Napier Boys' team were tricky. Strong winds and consistent rain resulted in a number of three-set matches, but Palmerston held their nerve to reach the final where Tauranga Boys' awaited.
A strong start in the singles meant Palmerston North only had to win four doubles games to win on a count back. They duly achieved this and Griffith celebrated a faultless record of eight wins in a row at the tourney.
"It was great to win all eight matches, especially as the captain. As a captain of a tennis team you can't really do a lot when your not playing, expect encourage the others. It was great to lead by example," Griffiths explains.
After the Super 8, Palmerston North played a quad series against Auckland GS, Hamilton BHS and Wellington College in the capital. All three matches were lost, but the practice was vital in taming New Plymouth again in the regional qualifier a few days later and preparing for Nationals.
Griffiths says his favourite player is Roger Federer. In addition to tennis he plays rugby and water polo. In 2017 he hopes to study at Victoria University in Wellington.