Edited 15/03/2017 13:45
WILL TAYLOR AND BALDRY RECAPTURE THE TITLES?
The 51st Individual Championships of the Burnham & District Table Tennis League will be held at William de Ferrers Sports Hall over the weekend of 18/19 March, and what a spectacle it promises to be! Spectators are encouraged (free of charge) and, with ninety players competing whose ages range from twelve up to seventy (and beyond!), where else is there to be on a quiet day in South Woodham Ferrers? So sit back, relax and enjoy the table tennis showcase from some of the county’s finest. Hot and cold modestly priced refreshments are available throughout the weekend thanks to volunteers and supporters of the league, and all proceeds help fund the running of the tournament. Finals Night will be held at Champions Manor Hall at 19:30 on Thursday 23rd March and will conclude the Championships, culminating with the finals of the Ladies Singles and Mens Singles among other senior events to be held on the Sunday such as the Mens Doubles, Mixed Doubles and Vets Singles – again, spectators are very welcome.
Let’s get stuck in to the meaty Mens Singles event first, which has the largest amount of entrants from all events this year with fifty players competing. Number one seed, the practically impenetrable defensive wall that is Duncan Taylor, will have his eyes on the prize as he hopes to recapture the title which he won in 2014 and 2015, and was stripped of last year in the final against Tony Halling, who is not in the mix this year. This event is missing several big names this year, but that by no means makes it less competitive as there is very little to choose from in terms of standard between the top eight seeds and, in fact, I would say it looks like the most open event of the weekend. The second seed is two-winged attacker Gary Young who has a ninety-one percent win average from thirty-five matches played in the top division this season. The third and fourth seeds are Kevin Read and George Reeves; both have won this event four times before and the demon server Reeves was a finalist in the Chelmsford 2016 Mens Singles. Seeds five to eight are formed by the spinny Keith Adams (Basildon 2016 Mens Singles finalist), rapid improver Reece Seddon, the tenacious John Poysden and the smooth Charles Sweeny. There are plenty of players who could upset the seedings, such as John Monk, Glenn Johnson, Steve Whiteley and Peter Mynard to name but a few. This event will begin at 9:00 on Sunday (19th) morning at with group stages and will be played up to the Semi-Finals stage. This year we are introducing a brand new sub-event called the Plate which will effectively form a Mens Singles Band Two so that the players who do not make it through the groups will play off in a straight knockout.
Like the Mens Singles, the Ladies Singles title holder Rebecca Lowman is absent from this year’s proceedings. Number one seed and two-time winner, the hard-hitting (and that’s an understatement) Dawn Baldry will be aiming to make it three titles in five years. Dawn has already won the Chelmsford and Colchester 2016 Ladies Singles titles this season and so will be running high on confidence; her greatest challenge and the second seed, eight-time winner and Southend/Basildon 2016 Ladies Singles Champion Lin Roff – recently dubbed Queen of Essex Table Tennis - will be hoping to thwart her. Chelmsford 2016 Ladies Singles finalist Jan Fuller may have enough in her arsenal to stop either of them so it will be down to who can bring their ‘A’ game on the day. This event will be played on the Sunday up to the Final stage.
The Mens Doubles will definitely have fresh finalists this year as neither Minda Sinkus of the winning pair or Alex Abbott of the runners-up pair are in the mix this year, but their former partners’ (Charles Sweeny and Glenn Johnson) new respective pairings with Simon Jacob and Barrie Delf will prove difficult opposition for the top seeds. Two-time winners Kevin Read/Duncan Taylor take top billing, while second seeds are the new tasty looking lefty-righty pair of Gary Young/John Poysden. Third and fourth seeds are George Reeves/Reece Seddon and Keith Adams/Peter Mynard. Another lefty-righty pair – the extremely hard-hitting Ciaran Whelan/Steve Whiteley – could spring some surprises. And of course there are the classic pairings that need no introduction: Neil Want/John Knights and the father and son duo Dave Hancox/Chris Hancox. This event will be played up to the Final stage on Sunday. The Ladies Doubles sadly only has two pairs competing this year; Lin Roff/Jean Chasmer and Dawn Baldry/Shirley Carroll will fight it out in a straight Final on Sunday. The Mixed Doubles has eight pairs competing; first seeds are Lin Roff/Duncan Taylor and second seeds are Jan Fuller/Gary Young. I fancy the chances of Dawn Baldry/Ciaran Whelan (losing finalists last year) in this event, which will also be played up to the Final stage on Sunday.
Sunday’s action will round off with the Veterans events. The Veterans Singles (age 40+) always displays outstanding table tennis. Top seed and last year’s winner Duncan Taylor will be looking to retain the title, and seeds two to five keep form to the Mens Singles order with Gary Young, Kevin Read, six-time winner George Reeves and 2013 winner Keith Adams, while six to eight are John Poysden, Glenn Johnson and John Monk. This event will be played up to the Final stage. The Veterans Doubles (age 40+) features last year’s champions Kevin Read/Duncan Taylor who take top billing; Gary Young/John Poysden, Keith Adams/Glenn Johnson and George Reeves/Bill Smith make up the rest of the seedings. I like the look of new pair Adams/Johnson in this event, which will be played to conclusion on the day. The Super Vets Over 60s Singles proves that table tennis is truly a sport for life and the ferocious attacker John Poysden will be out to retain his title in this event which will be played to conclusion on the day; seeds two, three and four are taken by Glenn Johnson, Steve Whiteley and Hamish Innes.
The Saturday is dominated by the Junior, Divisional and Handicap events. The Cadet Singles (Under 15s) has received a strong entry of fifteen players and the shoo-in favourite to take the title is Luca Bailey of the SWF Club who has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. The Junior Singles (Under 18s) also has a large entry of sixteen players and I would expect the final to be contested between Luca Bailey and Kieran Stanley (also of Woodham), although they will face challenges from the likes of Conor Hall, Thomas Page and Thomas Butcher who have also competed in the league this season. The Junior Doubles (Under 18s) will be fought between seven pairs and is a tough one to call, particularly as Luca and Kieran have different partners - Alex Wilson and Thomas Butcher respectively. These events will be played to conclusion on the day, except for the possibility of having the Junior Singles Final on Finals Night which is not yet confirmed.
In the Fambridge Trophy event (Division 3 players only) number one seed and holder Mitch Davies will be going for his third consecutive title, and he will face tough opposition from second seed Louis Gunn, third Peter Mortensen and fourth Vince Gurney, all of whom have been in fine form this season. The unseeded Kieran Stanley and 2012 winner Mike Burton could definitely throw spanners in the works. This event will open the weekend’s action at 8:30am on Saturday and will be played as a straight knockout. The Restricted Singles (Divisions 2 & 3 players only) will be keenly contested and will likely have a new, first-time champion as most of the previous recent winners have progressed into the first division. This event will begin with group stages and eight players have been seeded; in order: David Gatheral, Victor Chan, Roger Hance, Nick Duce, Scott Perry, Allan Steel, Tom Elder and Rod Maclennan. The unseeded George Ashley could be a dark horse here, and the aforementioned players from the Fambridge Trophy may also spring surprises. The third and final Divisional Event is the Mixed Open Singles, which is open to players from all divisions except for the top eight seeds from the Mens Singles; therefore last year’s winner Reece Seddon and semi-finalist Charles Sweeny will not be in the mix. This event is straight knockout and unseeded, and therefore the draw is totally randomized, which makes it especially important to hit the ground running as some of the strongest players can be pitted against each other in the early rounds. I would expect the front runners to be last year’s runner-up Steve Whiteley, two-time champion Peter Mynard, 2013 champion Eric Green and Glenn Johnson, but there are at least half a dozen other entrants who could realistically take the title. All of the Divisional Events are played to conclusion on Saturday. I am going to tip Peter Mortensen for the Fambridge Trophy, Allan Steel for the Restricted Singles and Eric Green for the Mixed Open Singles, but please don’t take those down Ladbrokes as you will likely receive a look of confusion from the staff.
The Handicap events will round off Saturday's action and are also played to conclusion on the day, starting with the Singles where the players' starting point handicaps are predetermined and range from +15 all the way to -20. These matches are played in the old format of ‘Best of 3 games up to 21 points’ and aim to level the playing field to give every player an equal chance regardless of ability. Handicap Doubles with partners drawn out of a hat always throws up some interesting match-ups!
We look forward to seeing you this weekend.
Lee McHugh - Press & Publicity Officer - Burnham Table Tennis League