This week saw the closed championships of the Bath and District Table
Tennis League. In the open singles there was another win for the
ever-youthful Gary Baldwin, at 62 years of age still playing exciting
topspin table tennis. In the semifinal he overcame longstanding
arch rival and Chippenham club mate Terry Parkins in five close sets.
Earlier Parkins had seen off number two seed Albert Bolhuis in a tense
quarter final. In the other semifinal, Andy Cox defeated the awkward
Alan Champneys, overturning a two sets to one deficit. This brought
the exciting final between Baldwin and Cox who employ similar
back-from-the-table attacking styles. Despite losing the first end,
Baldwin's experience under pressure saw him win the next three to
retain the title.
The first round of the competition is played in groups, with the top
two going through to the main draw; the others going into a
consolation plate event. In a quirk of fate, both Baldwin, Cox and the
two plate finalists, Nigel Dagger and Bob Hindle all came from the
same "group of death", so Baldwin actually beat Cox twice on the
night. In the plate event, the mixed hitting and chopping of Hindle
overcame the relentless counterhitting and blocking of Dagger in
straight sets, reversing their result from the group stages.
The veterans event, for those over 40, saw a topsy turvy
competition. Run on similar lines to the open singles, defending
champion Terry Parkins failed to win his group, being edged out by
Alan Champneys in 5 ends. In the main draw he had to face Albert
Bolhuis who had won his group with his athletic topspin attack. A
tired Gary Baldwin fared little better, losing in straight sets to
Nigel Dagger, whose close-to-the-table counterhitting is the perfect
antidote to Baldwin's game.
With both favourites out of the competition, the draw now opened up.
Champneys and Bolhuis worked their way through to the final. Bolhuis
came out of the blocks strongly, hitting breathtaking winners on the
run on both wings. At 10-6 up he looked a certainty to take the first
end, but just failed to land the killer punch against Champneys'
pimpled defence, who went on to win in three straight sets. Special
mention should also go to Mike Newton whose wily deadbat play thwarted
the attack of Jon Bowers 11-9 in the fifth end of the plate final.
The most popular and keenly fought event is always the handicap
singles, played in the old 21-up format with the weaker player given a
start based on this season's league performance. A mixture of players
of all abilities made through the groups into the main draw. The pick
of the quarter finals was the match up between up and coming Ethan
Littlejohns who plays for Bath in the National Junior League and the
experienced Martyn Le Butt. The youngster's position in division two
gave him the generous handicap of +11 over the premier division
player. Nevertheless the consistent defence of Le Butt fought off
Ethan's attack to take the first end at deuce, only to be overpowered
21-15 in the second. The final end was a tense affair with
Littlejohn's attack just not quite proving penetrating enough. In the
semi, Le Butt similarly saw off another determined attack from
division one's Gary Sartain.
Meanwhile, in the other half of the draw, powerful flat-hitting Simon
Monks was finding some form. After a close three setter with team mate
Paul Jeffery, he gained his revenge on Alan Champneys who had beaten
him in the veterans singles. In the final Le Butt had no answer to
Monks' weapons, with the big Bath Invader player showing that brave
carefree attack is often a winning tactic for the player on the higher
The junior and cadet events were played at the weekend and will be reported
on in next week's paper.