University of Fort Hare’s first lady of table tennis Azikile Makaula made amends for a slip up in the singles to grab bronze in the doubles at the nationals in Cape Town recently.
Despite her initial disappointment, Makaula and her Team Eastern Cape playing partner Nitaya McCuur roared through the group stages before losing in the semifinal.
Their performance at the SA Open Table Tennis Championships gave the team a well-deserved spot on the podium.
“It was very exciting. It was quite a moment for me,” the 21-year-old library and information sciences student said.
The format was not new to the UFH star, who had often paired with other youngsters while learning her craft in Mthatha.
However, she said, it was a very different game.
“You are playing with someone new. You have to find out how they play and what their style is.
“You also don’t get much time to practise together. But when you train with them you have some time to work on your communication.”
After sailing through their three round-robin matches, Makaula and her teammate from Komani’s Aloevale Titans overcame a knockout round to reach the semis against Cape Town’s Musfiquh Kalam and Jade Sasman.
Unfortunately, that was where their hopes of gold or silver ended.
They shared bronze with Capetonians Jesse-leigh Nomdo and Simeen Mookrey, who succumbed in the other semi.
Makaula was pleased that she could make amends after an uncharacteristic spate of unforced errors sealed her fate in the Round of 32 in the singles – not a bad showing, but not quite what she had hoped for.
The biggest of these was playing too defensively.
“I am not a defensive person. I should have attacked more,” she lamented afterwards.
“The players I was up against played defensively and I then tried to play that game as well. I should have played my own attacking game.”
It had taught her a valuable lesson and she would know better next year, she said.
Save for the upcoming University Sports South Africa table tennis tournament, Makaula’s 2023 season has come to an end.
It undoubtedly has been one to remember, given that it marked her return to the provincial side after a five-year hiatus.
She first appeared for Team EC at senior level in 2018 as a matric learner at Joyi Senior Secondary School in her hometown.
The UFH student had already shown excellent form in August, when she placed second at the Eastern Cape championships.