The CNMI Junior Tennis Team continued its domination in the North Pacific Qualifying Tournament after nearly sweeping the singles division titles in the 2012 edition of the annual competition held last week in Tamuning, Guam.
The CNMI bets won five of the six championships at stake in the five-day tournament played at the Rick Ninete Tennis Centre. Delivering top finishes for the Commonwealth were Christian Miller, Thea Minor, Carol Lee, Michael Ren, and Mikayla Lopez.
Miller, who ruled last year's U15 division, played in his first U18 event in the NPQ and won his debut, beating Guam's Christian Penafiel in the finals, 6-0, 6-2. The victory versus Penafiel was a sweet one for Miller, as the latter absorbed his lone loss in the tournament against the former, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (7).
With Miller bowing to Penafiel in the round-robin play, he finished only second in Pool A and was forced to duel teammate and erstwhile U18 champion Rafael Jones in the semifinals. The 16-year-old Miller went on to down Jones, 6-0, 6-4, to advance to the finals and earn a rematch against Penafiel, who eliminated the CNMI's Jake Lee, 6-1, 6-2. Jones saved third place after slipping past Lee in the consolation game, 7-6 (8), 6-7 (5), 6-2.
In the girls U18, Minor successfully defended her crown, winning the all-CNMI finale against Melody Johnson, 6-3, 6-2. Thea made it to the title game after edging sister Theecel, 6-1, 6-2, while Johnson prevailed in the other semis pairing, thumping Palau's Abigail Gbewonyo, 6-1, 6-2. The straight set win over Johnson gave Thea a perfect record (no set lost) in the NPQ.
Theecel gave the CNMI a 1-2-3 finish in the U18 after thwarting Gbewonyo in the battle for third place, 6-3, 6-3.
The girls U15 championship was another all-CNMI affair with Lopez outclassing Negahr Rastguiy, 6-3, 6-2. Lopez, who also did not drop a single set in the tournament, boosted her chances for back-to-back titles after eliminating Palau's Ayana Rengiil in the semis, 6-1, 6-1. Rastguiy took the other finals berth after easing past teammate Emily Jones, 6-1, 6-0. Jones also dropped her third place game against Rengiil, 2-6, 0-6.
The third all-CNMI finals took place in the boys U12 division with Ren sweeping teammate Luther Lizama, 6-1, 6-3. Ren clinched the finals berth in the upper half of the draw after spanking Guam's Mason Caldwell, while a 6-4, 6-3 victory over FSM's William Joab in the lower half moved Lizama into the finals.
Carol Lee completed the CNMI's sweep in the U12 age group when she defeated teammate Isabel Heras in the finals, 6-1, 6-2. Lee and Heras, who were unbeaten in the pool play, extended their streaks and arranged their title duel after winning over teammates Julia Ishikawa, 6-1, 6-2, and Elizaveta Atalig, 6-1, 6-02, in the semifinals, respectively. Ishikawa settled for third place, following a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Atalig.
Meanwhile, Guam's Derek Okuhama foiled the CNMI's bid for a sweep in the NPQ when he outclassed Christian Cajigan in the boys U15 finals, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Okuhama marched into the finals after beating the CNMI's Tommy Choi, 6-4, 6-2, while Cajigan spoiled an all-Guam finale after downing the host's David Okuhama in the other semis pairing, 6-4, 6-3.