TABLE TENNIS: Smalley seizes the moment to seal county men’s singles title

Nicole Bird won three titles at the Northamptonshire County Closed Tournament
Nicole Bird won three titles at the Northamptonshire County Closed Tournament

Dan Smalley was the man of the moment at the Northamptonshire County Closed Tournament as his name was etched on the men’s singles trophy for the first time.

The third seed enjoyed a fine weekend at his Westfield home and walked away with three finals-night titles.

After number one ranked Andy Trott had to pull out after the group stage through injury, Smalley became one of the tournament favourites but didn’t have it all his own way.

He eased through his group but was taken the distance by club-mate Roumen Stefanov before winning 11-6 in the fifth in the quarter-final.

In the semi-final he faced an even bigger scare after falling 2-0 down to Henry Arthur, who had taken advantage of a walkover against Trott, before coming back to win 11-3, 11-7, 11-2.

And in the final he produced a composed performance to dispatch first-time finalist Adam Wilson 11-9, 11-7, 11-9.

He had earlier joined Matt Horrocks to retain their men’s doubles title with a 10-12, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5 win over John Fuller and Nigel Metcalfe.

Smalley and team-mate Nicole Bird also kept hold of the mixed doubles title with a convincing victory over Richard Elliott and Charlotte Binley.

It was an equally fine night for Bird who left with all three major titles on offer.

She opened her night by retaining the women’s doubles trophy with partner Jordan Moss against Binley and Anna Wilson 3-1.

And the 21-year-old sealed it by winning the women’s singles for the seventh year in a row after beating Binley - who reached three finals - 11-8, 11-2, 11-8.

Her father Kevin made sure two Birds went home with trophies after winning the veteran men’s singles.

In an entertaining match he beat Elliott, who recently became the Kettering League’s most successful player ever, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8.

Shay Graham made sure he bettered last year’s tournament by winning the junior boys’ singles.

The 2018 runner-up beat Corby Smash youngster Alex Cochrane 3-1.

Harborough junior Danny Verrall won the most events after claiming no fewer than six titles.

Four of those came in the banded events after he won bands 2 and 3, the junior banded singles and the band 1 doubles with Cochrane.

He had earlier won the under-15 boys’ singles and the under-18 boys’ doubles, again with Cochrane.

Cochrane also tasted success in the band 1 singles after winning despite being unseeded.

That helped him win a new award, the Ken Marchant Trophy, in honour of the former county chairman who died in 2018. Decided by the tournament committee, it goes to the most promising junior.

Cochrane took the accolade after winning three titles and reaching the junior boys’ final.

He also escaped a tough men’s singles group by beating Chris Haynes 3-0 before seeing match points come and go in the last 16 against Elliott.

Veteran trophies were shared across the field with Kevin Bird adding the over-50 doubles with Stefanov to his finals night success.

Trott did manage to pick up one trophy before injury prevailed as he and Elliott won the over-40 doubles against Bird and Vidal Graham.

Christine Scaysbrook won the over-40 women’s singles, Elliott won the over-50s and Fuller won the over-60s.

Brian Wooding and Chris Stone won the over-60 doubles with losing men’s singles finalist Wilson beating the younger Bird in the 18-21 singles final.

Other junior titles went to Swati Jethwa (under-15 girls’ singles), Ben Aldridge (under-13 boys’ singles), Nathan Dixon and Reuben Warburton (under-15 boys’ doubles) and Aldridge and Jamie Anderson (under-13 open doubles).

Mark Holly also picked up a trophy by beating Bronwen Grigg in the band 4 final.