The Northumberland Table Tennis Association Team Handicap Knockout Cup may have a lengthy title but its format is hugely enjoyed by swathes of league players every year. Teams opt in to the competition at the start of the season and fixtures are picked at random then played on designated league break weeks throughout the winter season.

During a match, every individual player has a handicap. When players with different handicaps face each other, the higher handicap player gets a head-start, the size of which is determined by the difference in handicaps. The old scoring rules are used in this competition too so players play to 21 points in each end, and best of 3 ends wins.

These handicaps are developed by a complex formula based on players’ results across multiple seasons. Every player, at some point, starts on a handicap of 60 – but as they earn wins in the winter and summer leagues, this figure will start to drop. Losses take their toll too however and unexpected defeats can incur significant damage to a player’s handicap when the results are calculated at the end of each league season.

The real benefit of the team handicap format is that players in lower divisions often get the chance to play against stronger teams, and importantly, face them on a level pegging. Top Premier Division players can often find themselves on the receiving end of an 18-point deficit against Division 4 players which means it only takes 3 good shots from the higher handicap player (or 3 mistakes from the Premier player) to win an end. Sounds easy for the player with such a big advantage, but once you take spin and wicked serves into the equation, these games can still often be very tight.

Three rounds of matches were played before 8 teams made it into the quarter-finals. Prudhoe narrowly beat Cramlington Trojans 5-4, Mount C beat Tyneside C 6-3, Cramlington Ravens nearly whitewashed Ouston B 8-1 and Mount B beat Old England Fatts 7-2.

In the semi-finals, the two Mount teams were drawn against each other leaving Cramlington Ravens to play Prudhoe at home.

The Ravens made short work of Prudhoe as a young team of Ethan Brown, Jack Cairns and Israel Shodeinde had 9, 10, 11 and a single 12-point head-starts against Prudhoe’s experienced line-up of Shirley Gelder, Mark O’Connor and Maurice Cheek. All three of the away team players nearly managed to win matches as they had 5 close deciding end matches but in the end only Gelder was able to pick up a win as the youngsters battled to an 8-1 victory. The other fixture was also relatively one-sided as Mount C dispatched their compatriots with ease, winning 5-1.

This led to an interesting final as Mount C’s team comprised of Division 2 player Alan Livingstone, Division 1 player Dan Dodds and Premier player Anthony Ainley against Cramlington’s Division 3 players Ethan Brown, Jack Cairns and Israel Shodeinde. The match started out with Alan Livingstone facing Ethan Brown, Livingstone losing the first end with just 8 points. The second end was closer but Brown pipped it 22-20 to give the Ravens a 1-0 start. Anthony Ainley then stepped up to face Israel Shodeinde and was unfortunate to lose the first end by just 4 points. In the second end however Ainley’s resolve disintegrated and Shodeinde cruised to a 21-4 victory.

The third match between Dan Dodds and Jack Cairns was a close call, Dodds facing a 10-point deficit, but after taking the first end 21-17, Cairns got to grips with Dodds’ play style and won the next two ends -9 and -10. Ainley stepped up again to face Ethan Brown and did incredibly well to get to 18 points in both ends despite a 14-point start for the youngster but it wasn’t enough to stop a 2-0 loss, taking the Ravens to 4-0 in matches and only requiring a single win to take the Handicap Knockout Cup trophy.

The last match was the closest as Alan Livingstone stared down a 10-point disadvantage to beat Jack Cairns 22-20 in the first end. Cairns got his game together however and won the next end -13. Cairns needed just one more end to seal victory for the Ravens and he did so dutifully by winning 21-15, giving the Ravens a seemingly comfortable 5-0 victory.

All three youngsters were identified by top local coach David Godbold as part of after-school sessions at John Spence school in North Tyneside a couple of years ago and the league community are delighted that such promise is starting to take shape in a competitive environment.

Ravens – KO Cup winners : Ethan Brown, Jack Cairns and Israel Shodeinde

Mount C – KO Cup runners up :  Dan Dodds, Alan Livingstone and Anthony Ainley

 

It was a slightly disappointing set of results for Northumberland Table Tennis League players at last weekend’s VETTS Northern Masters. Thirteen players travelled to Preston to enjoy a mix of top quality table tennis and top quality social interaction.

The region’s best hopes lay on the shoulders of Andrew Wilkinson in the men’s Over 40s category, and Jeff Salter in the men’s Over 60s. Both players have, in recent times, won these events at other tournaments and would go into the events as number 3 seed and number 8 seed respectively.

Wilkinson cruised through the group stages, beating Brian Allison, Anthony Dixon and Tony Bartram in three comfortable sets apiece. He’ll be the first to admit he finds himself in a slump of form lately and undoubtedly the losses in both local leagues’ Closed Tournaments will have knocked his usually-untouchable confidence. Either way, he will be disappointed to fall at the first knock-out stage hurdle on the second day of the event as he succumbed 11-6 in the deciding end to unseeded Malcolm Mcevoy. The O40s was a slightly strange event at Preston however as the eventual winner, Thomas Haddley, was unseeded – and found himself in the final against the number 7 seed, Ritchie Venner. Mark Short and Andy Trott, number 1 and 2 seeds respectively, both found themselves knocked out in the quarter finals; the number 4 and 5 seeds Simon Pugh and Chris Clinton not even able to get that far.

Salter fared slightly better as he won his group in the Over 60s and qualified for the knock-out rounds by placing second in the Over 50s. He decided to concentrate on the Over 60s however and in doing so, gave himself a good run as he progressed fairly easily to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, there he met companion left-hander Phil Cawser, the eventual winner of the Over 60s, losing 3-1.

The only player to come home with any silverware was classic defender Jimmy “Chopfloat” Scope, who narrowly missed out on qualifying into the main O60s event to end up in the Consolidation tournament. There he did well to beat fellow league and long pimple player John Williamson in the first round, albeit in a very close-fought encounter which Scope scraped 12-10 in the deciding end. Scope then enjoyed a comparatively straightforward run to the title, never dropping an end before beating Lionel Royle 3-0 in the final.

Shirley Gelder was also in form, reaching the quarter-finals of the women’s Over 50s and the semi-finals of the O60s. In the 50s she was knocked out by semi-finalist Denise Mcevoy and in the 60s she lost to the event’s winner Diane St Ledger. Husband Tony was less successful, winning just one match in both his Over 40s and Over 50s groups. He did however have a close-fought deciding-end game with Mark Evans, a player who progressed very well in the main Over 40s event before losing out to finalist Ritchie Venner.

Evans was the player responsible for knocking another highly-rated Northumberland player out of the Over 40s event as he took down number 12 seed Eddie Smith 11-7 in the fifth end. Smith, like Evans, also lost out to Venner – this time in the quarter-finals of the O50s event in which he was seeded tenth.

Two players who will likely be disappointed with their performances are Steven Penman and David Craddock. Penman, a high-averaging player in the league’s Premier division and regular title winner, was expecting to perform well at the national level but ended up losing all three of his Over 40s group matches against Brian Oldfield, Chris Maiden and classical defender and off-the-table long pimple retriever “Super” Steve Horton. David Craddock was unable to win an end in any of the six matches he played.

Jim Stamas reached round 3 of both the Over 50s and Over 60s, losing to Mark Romano 3-1 in the former and aforementioned Jeff Salter 3-1 in the latter. Paul Stead reached round 3 of the O60s, losing to Phil Bowen three straight, but was unable to make it out of his group in the O50s event.

Phil Prady and Robert Reed both ended up in the Consolidation side of the O40s event with Prady losing 3-1 in the quarter-finals to Semi Idowu and Reed getting knocked out in the first round. Prady also made it through his group in the Over 50s event but was unceremoniously removed from the competition by Raymond Hurst, losing in three straight ends.

 

NORTHUMBRIA TABLE TENNIS LEAGUE

KO HANDICAP CUP 2017 – 2018:  Draw for semi finals

 

Home team   Away team
1 Cramlington Ravens V Prudhoe & District United Services Club
 2 Mount B V Mount C

 

Regulation 9 of the Handicap rules states that, “The semi-finals and final will be played at venues mutually agreeable to the competing teams.”

Fixtures for the semi-final to be played as soon as possible to allow the final to be played prior to the start of the Summer season.

 

NORTHUMBRIA TABLE TENNIS LEAGUE

KO HANDICAP CUP 2017 – 2018:  Results from Round 4

 

Home team   Away team  
1 Prudhoe 5 Cramlington Trojans 4
 2 Tyneside C 3 Mount C 6
 3 Cramlington Ravens 8 Ouston B 1
4 Mount B 7 Old England FATTS 2

 

Mount A had a game to catch up on this week in the Premier Division and therefore found themselves playing against both Cramlington Tigers and Prudhoe United Services Club A. Both matches were fairly comfortable for Mount as their line-up of Graeme Barella, Phil Prady and Anthony Ainley cruised to a 10-0 whitewash of the Tigers and an 8-2 victory over Prudhoe. With the Tigers’ usual James Bradbury out injured, Division 2 player Blair Carmichael stepped up but was unable to take any ends off the experienced Premier players of Mount. Rob Reed and Gareth Pearson both took a few ends each but couldn’t string a result together in any match. Prudhoe fared marginally better as top O60 veteran Jeff Salter beat both Prady and Ainley, but succumbed to Barella. Teammates John Williamson and Peter Stempczyk were unable to pick up any wins.

The other Mount Premier team was also in action as the B team travelled to China Town to face NECA A. Jamie Dent managed to beat recently-signed Newcastle University student Harry Saxton but neither he nor teammates Rodney Roberts and Dan Dodds were able to beat Chun Yin Yu or Adam Webster.

Harry Saxton also played in Division 1 as NECA B travelled to Cramlington to play against the Reivers. The home side’s Steve Pearce and Paul Jamieson were in good form as they beat Bernie Morris and Ken Lee, but Philip Smith also deserves a mention as he recorded one of his best wins to date as he beat Ken Lee 3-2 in a close match. Smith, playing up from Division 3, also took an end off both Morris and Saxton and was arguably unlucky to take more. Saxton took Player of the Match however as he won his hat-trick, but the home side took the doubles to claim a narrow 6-4 victory overall.

The two Division 1 Old England teams also faced off against each other this week in what was a fairly one-sided affair for the Jacks. The Crocks’ Colin Robson took a win against Jake Helm, but neither Brian Bateman nor Joseph Perrin were able to beat Joseph Muldowney or Lynne Herrington. The away side did however manage to win the doubles, making it 8-2 to the Jacks.

Mark Kimberley won Player of the Match when Tyneside A hosted Mitford, beating Karen Henry, Barry Hill and Michael Bull. Bull beat both Mark Patterson and Steven Dickinson, but Henry and Hill only won 1 each leading to a 6-4 victory for the home side.

Prudhoe B fielded a strong team at home to Ouston A, Andrew Firth and Mark O’Connor both winning their hat-tricks. Maurice Cheek beat Neil Rodgers, but was unable to beat Michael Lyons or Mark Rodgers. Father and son combination Neil and Mark Rodgers won the doubles in a hotly-contested match which went to deuce in the deciding end, but it will make little difference as Ouston’s relegation back to Division 2 is looking nearly guaranteed. They are now 16 points away from safety and three of the teams above them have a game in hand.

NORTHUMBRIA TABLE TENNIS LEAGUE

KO HANDICAP CUP 2017 – 2018:  Draw for Round 4

Home team   Away team Normal home night
1 Prudhoe V Cramlington Trojans Tuesday
 2 Tyneside C V Mount C Monday
 3 Cramlington Ravens V Ouston B Friday
4 Mount B V Old England FATTS Wednesday

 

 Fixtures for round 4 to be played in (or before) w.c.19 March a specific week set aside for these matches.

Results to be sent to Alan Hedley, Competition Secretary, by the secretaries of the winning teams to arrive no later than 25 March, by post or (preferably) email.

Home teams are responsible for contacting the away team to confirm the match will be played on their normal home nights, which are shown in the table above.

Clubs should be aware that failure to fulfil their commitments in the Handicap Cup and will result in a fine of £10.

 

NORTHUMBRIA TABLE TENNIS LEAGUE

KO HANDICAP CUP 2017 – 2018:  Results from Round 3

Home team   Away team   To round 4
1 Tyneside C 6 Tyneside A 3 Tyneside C
 2 Cramlington Ravens 6 Mount A 3 Cramlington Ravens
 3 Saints 3 Ouston B 5 Ouston B
4 Cramlington Magpies 2 Cramlington Trojans 7 Cramlington Trojans
5 Prudhoe 6 Cramlington Jaguars 3 Prudhoe
6 NECA A 3 Mount B 6 Mount B
7 Mount C 5 Corinthians 2 Mount C
8 Old England FATTS 5 Cramlington Swifts 1 Old England FATTS

 

Until last week, 16 teams were still in the draw for the Northumbria League Knock Out Handicap Cup. This format sees teams from all divisions competing against each other, higher-ranked players facing head-starts from lower-ranked players. In some situations, this can see the league’s top players having an 18-point deficit to overcome with each set going to just 21 points in a best of 3 format.

Ouston B travelled down the road to face a Saints line-up of Steve Dawson, Ray Joynson and Ken Greatbatch. Joynson won 2, losing out to Jeff Mckenna, Dawson beat Kevin Richardson but that was all the home side could manage as they lost 5-3 overall.

Prudhoe hosted a young Cramlington Jaguars team as Mark O’Connor, Andrew Firth and Maurice Cheek faced off against Joe Hastings, Jamie Hall and Andrew Matfin. The away team had some sizeable head-starts, with the biggest advantage going to Joe Hastings with a 13-point start over Andrew Firth, but the home side showed their quality and won 6-3. Mark O’Connor won his three, Firth won two (including beating Hastings in the aforementioned match) and Maurice Cheek won one.

It was another 6-3 win for the Cramlington Ravens when they played at home to Mount A. The competition’s youngest side consisting of Israel Shodeinde, Ethan Brown and Jack Cairns did incredibly well to beat the experienced Division 1 line-up of Dave Cutler, Rod Roberts and Jamie Dent albeit with double-digit handicaps. Brown won all three, Shodeinde took two and Cairns helped out with a single win over Jamie Dent – finishing 21-18 in the deciding end.

On the other hand, Mount’s C team were at home to another Cramlington team, the Corinthians. Mount A’s league player Anthony Ainley was registered lower for this competition and he was joined by Rob Lawson and Alan Livingstone as they won a fairly comfortable 5-2 victory. Phil Smith did well for the away team as he beat Lawson and Livingstone but it wasn’t enough, Alan Hedley and Richard Williamson unable to pick up any wins for the away side.

John McKenna did well for the Cramlington Magpies as they faced club-mates Cramlington Trojans. He beat Premier Division player Gareth Pearson with just a 12-point start, narrowly lost by just 2 points in the deciding end against Blair Carmichael and took Adam Hardiman to a deciding end. Despite Aubrey Drapkin’s win over Pearson, the home team couldn’t get the wins they needed and ended up losing 7-2.

Old England Fatts stormed to victory over Cramlington Swifts as after the initial loss of Lynsey Storey beating Barry Matthews, they won 5 matches on the bounce and only dropped a single end. Steve Martin and Joe Perrin both winning two matches each and Matthews recovering to beat Pete Wilkinson.

The only North Tyneside YMCA team, now playing for Tyneside C, managed a good win over their club’s A team when Tom Manuel, Ray Pini and Ron Bain won 6-3 against John Donnelly, Mark Kimberley and Mark Patterson. Kimberley won two of his three and Donnelly beat Manuel, but Mark Patterson wasn’t able to pick up any wins.

The most one-sided game of the week saw Mount B, the artists formerly known as Birtley, take NECA A apart. Chun Yin Yu who has one of the highest grades in the competition found himself on the receiving end of 14, 15 and 16-point head-starts and was unable to overcome these deficits. Bill Edwards, Mike Bradley and John Rowell each won 2 matches leaving Yu, Terry Kwong and Kit Robinson with a 6-0 defeat.

The fourth round matches will be played week commencing 18th March, a week free of league fixtures.

Northumberland Table Tennis Association’s Junior Championship was held at The Sporting Club at Cramlington on Friday 16th February, 2018.

The tournament hosts four different events – Junior Singles (under 18), Cadet Singles (under 15), Under 13 Singles and Under 12 Singles. Due to time constraints, with the tournament being held on a Friday evening, every match is played as a best of 3 ends. Any player registered for a club associated with the Northumbria Table Tennis League can enter but local schools are also approached to involve students with an interest in the game.

The biggest event, the Junior Singles, had a turn-out of 21 players with Adam Webster of NECA and Andrew Matfin and Sree Kanakala of Cramlington being the top seeds. The number 2 and 3 seeds met in the semi-finals but it was the number 3 seed Kanakala who triumphed to make his way to the final. In the other half of the draw, top seed Webster beat Alan Roskilly in the quarters then Ethan Brown in the semis. In the end Webster, who was the only player playing above division 3 standard of the Northumbria Winter League, took a comfortable win against Kanakala in the final to become the 2017/18 Junior Champion.

In the Cadet Singles, Kanakala had the opportunity to regain some pride and did so promptly when he beat Freddie McKenna in the quarter-finals, Alan Roskilly in the semi-finals and then Ethan Brown in the final. Brown, who plays for Cramlington Ravens in division 3, has had a good local league season but came unstuck against Kanakala.

 

Cramlington’s superb young player Oliver Ho did well to win both the Under 13 and Under 12 Singles. In the Under 13 event he beat Jake Borg, Archie McLean and Jessica Yang to get himself into the final against Leo Conn. Conn beat Yang in the group stages, had a bye into the first round then beat Freddie McKenna in their semi-final. The final was a close-fought affair with Ho taking the first end then Conn taking a comfortable 11-6 end. The deciding end was won 11-9 by Ho, giving him his first title of the day.

Only a few players under the age of 12 signed up for the tournament and in a round robin format Oliver Ho beat both Jessica Yang and Leo Conn to take his second title of the day, Conn winning yet another runner-up medal.

 

Northumberland Table Tennis Closed Championship 10 February 2018

With records going back as far as 1931, the Northumberland Table Tennis Association’s annual Closed Tournament still continues to be a great success and this year’s tournament was absolutely no exception. Any player who is affiliated with a club in the Northumbria Table Tennis League is eligible to enter and, as per recent history, the event was held at The Sporting Club of Cramlington.

Junior Tournament

A separate tournament for junior players affiliated with local table tennis clubs or local schools will be held on Friday 16th February also at the Sporting Club of Cramlington. For more information, please visit the Northumbria County Table Tennis website listed at the end of this article.

Open Singles

The main event which every player is eligible to enter is the Open Singles. Players of all ages and abilities compete, without aid of a handicap, for the prestigious Alan Morpeth Memorial Cup. The top seeds were last year’s winner Andrew Wilkinson, Graeme Barella, Eddie Smith, Jim Stamas and Steve Penman. Notable absences Chun Yin Yu and Dave Robson, both of whom would have been seeded, have poor records in local tournament history and spectators were left to surmise that they would rather avoid the competition than face the ignominy of defeat.

For the most part, the script went to plan – the top four seeds all made it to the semi-finals and fifth seed Penman was put out in the quarters by Wilkinson in an enthralling five-set encounter which could’ve easily gone either way. In the last end in particular, Penman was up, but whether due to nerves or Wilkinson’s notorious fighting spirit, he just couldn’t sustain the pressure, allowing Wilkinson to sneak the win.

The biggest upset of the event however came in the following round when Eddie Smith beat Wilkinson 11-8 in the deciding end of their semi-final. Smith, who once reached the considerable heights of ranking 13th in Senior Men and 2nd Veteran Men in England is no stranger to tournament finals having won the Newcastle Open, Newcastle Grand Prix, Sunderland Masters veterans on three occasions and no less than twelve Northumberland Closed Tournament Open Singles titles. A colossal figure in north east table tennis at the peak of his career, his lack of practice and local league matchplay means his recent wins have been restricted to the Veterans category in the Closed tournament.

Wilkinson went 2-1 up and, despite not playing his best table tennis, looked to mostly be in control. All credit to Smith however as he kept battling and in the fourth end when Wilkinson took his foot off the pedal, the left-hander capitalised to earn a fairly comfortable 11-6 win. In the deciding end, Wilkinson mistimed a few too many forehands meaning Smith was able to keep the pressure on and even edge in front. At 9-8 down the number one seed called a time-out but it didn’t have the desired impact as Smith then won the next point to go to 10-8. This gave Smith the serve for match point, and he was able to take the win at the first time of asking, to somewhat muted applause from the crowd as an expected finalist bowed out early.

In the other half of the draw, Barella’s determination to regain the Alan Morpeth trophy was clear as he waltzed through assorted Premier division players without so much as dropping an end. In the quarter-finals he beat Paul Baines 3-0, then in the semi-finals he quickly dispatched number four seed Jim Stamas 11-7, 11-5 and 11-4.

In the final, Eddie Smith stopped the Sunderland-born player in his tracks by winning the first set 13-11. It was neck and neck all the way but Barella misread a couple of Smith’s notoriously tricky “lefty” serves and tentatively threw one too many forehands off the end of the table, giving his opponent the advantage. The second end started in a similarly nervous fashion, a recurrence of Barella’s 3-0 loss to Wilkinson in last year’s final possibly weighing on the player’s mind, but Smith made a few unforced errors and handed Barella the initiative. Smith switched on half-way through the end to retrieve a few points but Barella’s ability to read the game and control the play with excellent blocks and counter-loops was starting to come together, proving enough to win the end and tie the match at one set each. Once this end was won, Barella settled into the match and looked like a different player, coming out on top of the majority of some genuinely excellent rallies. The player’s form from earlier in the tournament returned and Smith had no answer, losing the next ends 11-4 and 11-7 respectively. This gave Barella a 3-1 victory, the Northumberland Closed Tournament Open Singles title and access to the Alan Morpeth trophy.

Womens Singles

Despite a poor turn-out in the womens event, the Philomena Clark memorial trophy was still hotly-contested. In the end, Lynne Herrington’s style of close to the table control with short pimple rubber on her backhand gave her the title – though it was incredibly tight, as she won on countback. Linda Pinkham beat Lynsey Storey, Storey beat Herrington and Herrington beat Pinkham meaning the referees had the job of working out who had lost the fewest sets. As is commonplace in the women’s game, the matches mostly consisted of fast, flat, reactive table tennis with some brilliant rallies which often gravitated around Storey’s enjoyable to watch aggressive hitting style.

Veterans Singles

After a loss that would’ve hurt his pride, Andrew Wilkinson found himself with a chance for redemption as he battled his way to the finals of the Veterans event to once again face Eddie Smith. Wilkinson as the number one seed found some form and energy early on in the competition, beating Paul Baines in three straight sets in the semi-finals.

Smith on the other hand had a more challenging journey as he had to face age-old rival Steve Penman. Smith won the first end but Penman obliterated him in the second before capitulating to lose 3-1 overall.

A combination of Wilkinson’s return to form and desire for revenge was not what Smith would’ve wanted to face in the final, having played hours of table tennis already including a number of physically and mentally exhausting matches throughout the day. In the end these factors proved too much for the NESLC player and Wilkinson clinched two tight ends before cruising to victory in the third to win the Veterans title.

Handicap Singles

One of the best events of the day was undoubtedly the Handicap Singles event. Every season a team Handicap Cup competition runs in the Northumbria Winter League, but the singles event gives every player in the league the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. More able players will have lower handicaps meaning they will give a number of points as head-starts against weaker opponents. The Handicap Singles use the old table tennis rules, up to 21 points and best of 3 ends.

The lowest handicap players, the likes of the top seeds in the Open Singles event, often don’t enter the Handicap Singles to conserve energy – and because it can be incredibly difficult to win when they are giving opponents 18-point head-starts! This year was no different, with Jamie Lupton’s handicap of 27 being the lowest on display.

It was a family affair for the Luptons as Jamie found himself facing his father in just the second round of the competition. With a 14-point head-start however, it was always going to be a tough ask for Jamie as Dad Paul knows his game inside out. It proved too much of an ask and Lupton senior made his way through to the semi-final before being beaten by finalist Adam Hardiman.

On the other side of the draw, Adrian Barnes who plays a unique Korean Penhold style of play and possesses the highest possible handicap, worked his way up to the semi-finals in which he found himself matched against Sreeraag Kanakala with a 7-point head-start. Unfortunately for Barnes, Kanakala was in a rich vein of form and the 7 points simply weren’t enough.

The final of the event, between two Cramlington players in Kanakala and Hardiman, was one of the most enjoyable spectacles of the day. Just three points separated the two players with Kanakala having the advantage, and it’s a sure-fire sign that the league’s handicap system works when the end result was 18-21, 21-16, 21-18 in Kanakala’s favour. The two players’ styles complemented each other from the spectators’ perspective as balls were blasted back and returned with style on a regular and consistent basis.

Banded Singles

In Band 1, Steve Penman had to beat Jamie Lupton twice as he faced him in both the group stages and the final of the event. Lupton plays the style of a retriever, backing off from the table and returning balls from a distance with a view to outlasting his opponent. Such a summary does him scant justice however as he is phenomenally talented at this, covering what feels to his opponents like miles of ground just to get the ball back on the table. As such he’s no easy ride and Penman did well to keep him at bay twice in a row.

Band 2’s Rod Roberts came into the event with some good results as he knocked experienced Premier player Jimmy Scope out of the Open Singles event, and then took an end off number four seed Jim Stamas. Unfortunately his form didn’t continue as his style clashed with Womens Singles winner Lynne Herrington in the semi-final. In the final Herrington faced Mohinder Rawat in an unusual encounter, Rawat’s off the table style causing difficulties for the Durham County player. In the end, despite a second set loss of 11-4, Rawat triumphed 3-1.

Handicap runner-up Adam Hardiman was the winner of Band 3 where he faced friend, fellow Cramlington club mate and University compatriot Blair Carmichael. After the pair knocked out Matfen duo Nigel Tree and John Henderson in the semi-finals, Hardiman kept his nerve to win 3-1, giving him both the title and the bragging rights over his friend.

Band 4 was an almost entirely Cramlington-only affair, excluding tournament assistant referee Nigel Coe who was unable to make it through the group stage. Sreeraag Kanakala once again found himself on the winners’ roster as he beat fellow Richard Williamson in three straight sets, the young player’s aggressive style proving too quick to deal with for Williamson who prefers a defensive approach.

In the final band, Band 5, Paul Lupton won a hard-fought victory over the experienced long pimple player Alan Hedley. Hedley stormed to a comfortable 2-0 lead but Lupton hung on and seemed to get more used to Hedley’s style as the match went on, eventually winning 11-8 in the deciding end. Hedley’s route to the final involved winning his group then beating Linda Pinkham in the semi-finals; Lupton also winning his group then beating Adrian Barnes to progress.

Doubles

An absence of top players opened the Doubles event out this year, making it highly competitive. In this format, players are split into two pools – higher and lower ranked. One player from each pool is drawn out of a hat to determine the pairings.

Rob Reed and Phil Smith proved a challenging combination but they were undone in the semi-finals by the Matfen teammates Dave Swan and John Henderson. Both pimples players, the fortune of the draw certainly worked in their favour as they have played together in doubles matches on a number of occasions in the league.

At the other side of the draw, the event’s highest ranking player Jamie Dent combined with Aubrey Drapkin to make it through to the semi-finals but there they faced a tough combination of Dent’s Mount teammate David Cutler and Band 3 winner Adam Hardiman.

The tricky Matfen duo of Swan and Henderson won the first end of the final comfortably but once Cutler and Hardiman got used to their styles, they made short work of claiming the title, winning 6, 6 and 3.

Players of the Tournament

Although Graeme Barella faced and defeated the stiffest competition in the tournament, two names have appeared consistently throughout this report – Sreeraag Kanakala and Adam Hardiman.

Kanakala won both the Handicap Singles and the Band 4 event, whilst Hardiman won both the Band 3 and Doubles events whilst also finishing as runner-up in the Handicap. Both players displayed tremendous skill and sporting attitudes throughout the day and while there is no official award for it, they undoubtedly deserve to be informally appointed joint Players of the Tournament.

 

If you’re interested in starting to play table tennis, either socially or in the league, please visit www.nctt.co.uk for more information.

On Saturday, 10th February at the Sporting Club in Cramlington, the Northumberland Table Tennis Association once against hosts its annual Closed Tournament for players who have participated in the league. The Tournament, organised by league Chairman Gareth Pearson and his team, consists of a number of events including Open, Womens, Veterans and Handicap singles.

Open Singles

The biggest entry is for the Open Singles in which nine groups of players will battle it out to win the biggest and most prestigious trophy. The top seed in this is last year’s winner, Andrew Wilkinson. Cramlington Casuals’ star player has lost just one match this season, against Chun Yin Yu of NECA A, but the Chinese University student failed to get his entry in by the deadline despite being given a second opportunity to do so. Spectators are now wondering whether this is a lack of organisational skills, or the fear of facing Wilkinson in a tournament environment where Yu has never prevailed over the number one seed. The second seed is last year’s Open Singles runner up Graeme Barella who lost 3-0 to Wilkinson in the final. Mount A’s Barella has lost two matches this season, one also to Chun Yin Yu, and an unexpected defeat against NESLC’s Richard Wilson. When on form and in the right mindset, Barella can beat any player in the league and has proven this with a solid track record against top seed Wilkinson. Coupled with a thirst for revenge, a final between the top seeds could be brilliant viewing.

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