By Jon Perez
Ryan Achas, left, prepares to serve while Lito Mendoza waits for the return in this file photo taken in last year's Trader's/PTI Cup Badminton Tournament. (Mark Rabago)
The Men's A division team of Lito Mendoza and Ryan Achas led seven other pairs that won their opening round matches at the start of the 1st Annual Michelob Ultra Badminton Tournament last Saturday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
Mendoza and Achas, who also teamed up in last year's Traders/PTI Cup where they placed second to Macoi Aguda and Raj Jayalal, are aiming for their first title when they go up against two other pairs.
They avenged their last year's finals loss to Aguda, who this time partnered with Edwin Montoya.
Mendoza and Achas scored a hard-earned 21-16, 21-23, 21-10 win over the Aguda-Montoya tandem.
Fans were treated to a period of long rallies, excellent net plays, and baseline shots as both pairs treated the match as if it was already a championship game.
Mendoza and Achas managed to squeeze out a 21-16 win in the first set and was two points away in wrapping up the contest in the second set when Aguda and Montoya turned things around to force a deciding third frame.
Leading 19-15, and match point at 20-18, Mendoza and Achas allowed Aguda and Montoya score the points they need to tie the count at 20-all. In badminton, in case of a tie at 20-all the first player or pair to score the next two points wins the set or match.
That comeback was highlighted by Aguda's jump smash of an Achas return to end the set and force a rubber.
Fatigue, however, tolled heavily for Aguda and Montoya as Mendoza and Achas opened up with an early eight-point lead that they never relinquish en route to wrapping up the match at 21-10.
The Men's and Women's B divisions pair of Joseph Santos and Alvin Alvarez, and Marlene Peraja and Emily Vargas became tournament early favorites after winning their first two matches.
Santos and Alvarez scored similar close wins over the tandem of June Pineda and Jojo Savellano, 31-26, and the duo of Robert Reyes and Gerry Balarao, 31-28.
Peraja and Vargas opened up with a 31-19 win over Shirley Kim and Malou Malasarte then scored a 31-18 triumph against Merlie Savellano and Camille Samonte.
Savellano and Samonte first defeated Loyda Ito and Babes Cielo, 31-28. Ito and Cielo bounced back with a 31-24 decision against Janis Parcon and Juliet Ramos.
In other Men's B division games, the Eric Peña-Jonathan Perez tandem scored a 31-18 victory over Gary Bandoja and Aries Cordero, while Roger Vales and Saul Gargallo squeezed out a 31-26 win over Sherwin Samson and Ariel Mariano.
In Women's B, Elma Labuson and Janice Bungalos won by default against the pair of sisters Lot Abuel and Lanie Bartolome.
In Men's C, Efren Cacdac and Paul Navarro scored a 20-22, 21-12, 21-12 win over Obet Aguilar and Sherwin Pasillos, while in the women's division 16-year-old Angie Ito teamed up with Anna Rose Omori in scoring a 21-11, 21-8 demolition of Irene Santiago and Annette Ta.
Badminton action returns tomorrow when the 2nd Annual Northern Marianas Badminton Federation Doubles Tournament kicks off at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
The tournament is supported in part by Michelob, MARPAC, JET Holdings, SaipanCell, At Your Service, Serenity Salon, Elegance Café, NIC, Canton Restaurant, National Office Supply, Makeover Beauty Salon, Megavision, Nathan Clarke Matsumoto, and the tournament committee.
The men's Class A and B divisions will follow a round-robin format since it is only consist of three pairs, while the men's and women's B, and mixed doubles will have a double elimination round.
The tournament will be held every Saturday and Tuesday only with the play dates slated on April 19, 22, 26, and 29, and May 3 and 6. A defaulting time of 15 minutes will be followed in the tournament.
The elimination round games will follow one set of race-to-31 points in both the doubles and mixed doubles events. The quarter, semis, and finals will follow the regular scoring consisting of three-set matches of 21 points.