The annual Kettering & District Table Tennis League closed tournament proved to be a magnificent event with some fantastic table tennis being played and shocks aplenty.
The most prestigious competition of the day was the Men’s Singles and, with Chris Ross the only notable absentee from the group of top players in the league which included previous winners Steve Silk (seeded 1), Richard Elliott (4) and John Fuller (3), it was anyone’s guess who would take the crown. However, in probably the shock or the day, Elliott’s challenge was ended at the group stage as he lost out to Chris Haynes.
Silk eased through his group dropping just the one end on the way, as did Kevin Bird (2), whereas Fuller went one better by winning his matches in straight games. With Elliott the only seed to go out at the initial stage, spectators and players alike were looking forward to some great match-ups and they were not to be disappointed.
Haynes’ dreams of becoming champion on his tournament debut were ended when Mick Allsopp (5) knocked him out at the quarter-final stage. Fuller also met his demise at this stage when he lost 3-0 to Chris Gibbons (7). Bird eased through to the semi-final with a hard earned win in four ends over Lee O’Boyle (6) and Silk’s challenge continued with a straight-games win over Aiden Smith (8).
At the semi-final stage, Allsopp was defeated 3-0 by Silk and Gibbons also lost 3-0 to Bird to set up a final between the top two seeds. Bird is having an excellent season and his game has improved considerably in the last couple of years whereas Silk has consistently been one the best players in the county over many years and so a close encounter was expected.
Silk drew first blood by taking the first end 11-9. Bird responded in kind with an 11-9 win in the second end. Silk then went 2-1 ahead with a 15-13 game, only for Bird to hit back 11-9 to take the final to a deciding end.
It was at this stage that perhaps Silk’s greater ‘big match experience’ came in as he finally saw off the battling Bird 11-7 to improve on last season’s runners-up place and take the title for the second time.
After suffering a shock defeat in the group stage of the main event, Elliott’s day improved as he teamed up with Mick Allsopp to retain their Men’s Doubles title after seeing off the team of Fuller and Gerald Henson in the final. This was Elliott’s 10th success in this event. The Elliott/Alsopp pairing also retained their Over-40 doubles title with a win over Bird and Roumen Stefanov.
The Over-40s Singles event was to prove just as enjoyable as the Men’s Singles and, with six of the eight seeds from the main event eligible to enter this age restricted event, it was always going to be hard to pick the winner.
Silk could not repeat his success from the Men’s Singles, losing out to Fuller at the semi-final stage. Bird made his way to his third final of the day by beating Elliott at the semi-final stage, but again it was a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride as Fuller took the title for the third successive year with a 3-0 win.
Fuller and Silk were to meet again in the final of the Over-50s Singles and Fuller repeated his earlier success over Silk with a 3-0 win to take his second title of the day. Fuller then won his third title when, in tandem with Henson, they saw off Gibbons and Mick Edwards to successfully defend their Over-50s doubles title.
League secretary Ivor Jones made his way through to the final of the Over-60s event but Michael Edwards proved too hot to handle and took the title with a 3-0 success.
Aiden Smith took two titles with wins in the Under-30s and the Under-18s events, with Aaron Moore and Nicole Bird taking the respective runners-up spots. Success in the Under-18s ensured that Smith completed a hat-trick of victories in this event.
It was looking like it could be a day of second-place finishes for the Bird family, but they finally found the top of the podium when they teamed up to retain the mixed doubles – beating Elliott and Lauren Ainsworth in the final. With that title in the bag, Nicole then defeated Ainsworth to keep the Women’s Singles crown and then teamed up with Charlotte Binley to add the Women’s Doubles crown to her collection with Tyler and Ainsworth having to settle for the runners-up position.
The younger Bird wasn’t quite finished though and, with Tom Wildman as her partner, completed her day with a victory in the Under-18s Doubles over Ryan Cassidy and Kyle Murie.
After gaining a shock win over Elliott in the Men’s Singles, Haynes added another to his name as he beat the top seeded O’Boyle in the semi-final of the 30s-40s event. However, Dariusz Gulbicki proved too consistent for Haynes in the final and took the title in four ends, a year after finishing in the runners-up position.
In the handicap events there were wins for Elliott (Premier Division), Haynes (Division One) and Ainsworth (Division Two). Haynes won a second title when he beat Wildman to take the Class One restricted event and the Class Two event was won by Cassidy who defeated Andrew Dorrian in the final.
Derek Muggleton and Aaron Moore proved to be a successful partnership in the Mystery Doubles and won the event beating Scott Dixon and Liam Burnham in the final. This was Muggleton’s first win in this tournament since the 1990s when he won the title four times between 1990 and 1996.
Sam Wildman added his name to the select few that have won the Hard Bat title. In the semi-final he saw off O’Boyle before taking the crown with a 3-1 win over Gibbons.
The Under-16 Singles event had a small entry but this should not detract from James Allington’s success in this event which he secured with a win over Matt Billington.
Likewise, the Under-16s Doubles event had limited numbers and it was Billington and his partner Dan Bottrill that emerged victorious with a win over Nathan Brown and Zoltan Tihanyi.
A special thank was sent out to Phil Slade, Mike Wildman and the rest of the volunteers at the Westfield Club for their time and effort they put in to ensure the smooth running of the event.