Galaxy of stars storm into knockout rounds
A host of heavy-hitters have advanced through the blue-ribbon women’s singles sectional warfare at the $225,000 Australian Open on the Gold Coast yesterday.
Australian Jackaroos captain Lynsey Clarke led the charge towards the elimination rounds, with the Club Helenvale based ace defeating Denise Huender 21-6, Hong Kong’s Amy Choi 21-18 and Margaret Rowles 21-3 during her three sectional encounters at Mermaid Beach Bowls Club to book a berth in the knockout stages of the world’s most lucrative open bowls event.
Clarke, Australian Open’s most prolific title winner with six pieces of silverware in her trophy cabinet, last secured the coveted women’s singles crown in 2012 after a runner-up finish at Darebin, Victoria last year, and will later this week attempt to defend her fours trophy when sectional play for the discipline commences on Thursday.
Reigning champion Anne Johns, who made a hat trick of finals last year and claimed two titles, eased her way in the business end of the competition with two wins and a walkover at Broadbeach, but is now set of a collision course of epic proportions.
Johns and Clarke, the two singles finalists from last year, have been drawn against each other in the opening rubber of the knockout rounds, set to be staged on Tuesday, June 22 at Paradise Point.
The Jackaroos duo will be accompanied in the elimination stages of the event by their national teammates Rebecca Van Asch, Natasha Scott, Carla Odgers, Samathan Shannahan and Claire Turley, and 19 year-old capped representative Chloe Stewart, who all enjoyed an unblemished streak of three wins in their encounters today.
While the stage is set for one of the Jackaroos reigning finalists to fall, at least one more Jackaroo will be bundled out in the opening knockout rounds, with Stewart and Van Asch also pitted against each other.
Shannahan, the 2013 women’s triples champion, will face a tough test in her knockout match, against former national representative Sharyn Renshaw, who claimed the pairs title in 2010.
Across at the Mermaid Beach greens, two of the most illustrious names in bowls, New Zealand Blackjack Jo Edwards and Malaysia’s Siti Zalina Ahmad met in a titanic tussle in the second session.
With three Commonwealth Games singles gold medals between them, the international calibre hit-out was destined to go down to the wire, and it didn’t disappoint, with Ahmad prevailing 21-19 in the headline match.
Ahmad, the Australian Open’s only female international winner, having claimed the title in 2007, continued her winning way in the final round to book a spot in the knockout stages of the event with an unblemished record.
Edwards still remains in the hunt for her first Australian Open title, with her shot differential of +8 enough to earn a spot as one of the 55 women’s singles next best qualifiers to advance to the elimination rounds.
Edwards’ New Zealand Blackjack countrymen, world champion Val Smith, also had her campaign tarnished with a loss in the sectional rounds, to NSW young-gun Natalie Noronha, but similarly finished with enough shots in the black, 23, to earn a spot as a next best qualifier.
Karen Murphy, Australia’s most capped representative with 495 appearances, suffered a blow to her campaign with a penultimate rubber loss to Anita Jenkins 17-21.
Murphy found her rhythm in the last round however, with a clinical 21-1 victory over Tara Ferrier to bolster her shot differential to 32 to remain alive in the competition.
Three-time Australian Open champion Murphy also faces a tough task in her knockout encounter, facing fellow Jackaroos squad member and 2013 triples champion Claire Turley first up.
Also earning a ticket to the pointy end of the competition are former national representative Maria Rigby, Queensland state singles winner Kiana Anderson, twin pocket rockets Natalie and Sam Noronha, who won her last game 21-5 to qualify after suffering an earlier …