Sam Clayton was the big winner as he claimed the two major titles in a stunning day’s play in the 2015 Halifax Closed Championships.
18-year-old Clayton lived up to his billing as top seed by claiming his first Halifax Championship crown, defeating the formidable Sean Ellis over five gruelling ends.
And Clayton backed up his singles crown by picking up the doubles title later in the day to wrap up what has been a perfect season for the junior on home soil.
The day as a whole had everything; excitement, tension, shocks, comebacks and, most importantly, a high standard of table tennis across all four divisions. For the 43 players that entered, it was a long but enjoyable day crammed with countless matches that created a feel-good factor amongst the players and spectators in attendance.
However, Clayton left the happiest as he ended his last year as a junior on a high, asserting his label as the best player in the division with two titles to go alongside his current unbeaten record in the league.
It was by no means a stroll for Clayton, however, as he was made to work incredibly hard to take the trophy. After overcoming Shamir Bose and Ollie Hill, Clayton’s first test came in the shape of Greetland teammate James Foster, who gave Clayton a real fright before he eventually prevailed 3-1, crucially saving a game point in the third game with the match poised at 1-1. That win earned him a semi-final tie with Fraser Riley, who defeated Paul McKrieth in the last eight after McKrieth had shocked third seed Stuart Sykes in the last 16.
Riley’s rapid improvement over the course of the year was quickly evident as the two engaged in a number of exciting exchanges. Yet Riley stunned the hall as he raced into a 2-1 lead, hammering Clayton 11-1 in the third to gain the upper hand. However, Clayton’s experienced saw him fight back; nullifying Riley’s strengths at the table to take the next two ends and book his place in the final.
It was there where he met Ellis, who was largely untroubled on his route to the semi-final as he defeated Alex Shaw and Geoff Dunne to make it into the last four. Ellis’ next encounter was his biggest task at that point, coming up against last year’s finalist Matthew Shaw. Shaw came into the match on the back off a truly outstanding comeback against Ben Fillingham. The youngster looked on course for a comfortable victory as he raced into a 2-0 lead, and when Fillingham took a 10-7 lead in the third, most thought it was over. However, Shaw didn’t as he claimed the next five points to keep his hopes alive. Staggeringly, Fillingham couldn’t capitalise on another 10-7 lead in the fourth, as Shaw again claimed five consecutive points to take it to a decider, which he won 11-2.
Shaw was quickly at it again against Ellis, coming from 10-6 behind to take the first end before Ellis hit back to level the match. From there onwards it was a gritty encounter, but despite Shaw taking a 2-1 lead, Ellis recovered to take the match and progress into the final showpiece.
With the two top seeds in the final, many hoped for a tight final, and that is what they got. A topsy-turvy game saw Ellis take the lead twice at 1-0 and 2-1, putting him just a set away from glory. But Clayton’s ability to slow the game down and mix between devastating forehands and crafty defensive play saw him eventually prevail and take the crown.
There had been shocks aplenty at the start of the day, with the upcoming juniors from Hotshots particularly making their presence felt, a promising sign for next season.
Lewis Palmer advanced through his group with victory over Keith Skarz and almost topped it as he came agonisingly close to defeating Fraser Riley, eventually going down 16-14 in the fifth before losing 3-0 to Matthew Shaw in the last 16.
Teammate Jonny Heslop also defeated higher ranked opposition to enter the knockouts, defeating eventual Plate winner Seb Frere to progress, and came close to what would have been the biggest shock of the day against Ellis, eventually going down in four very tight ends. Heslop eventually got knocked out in the last 16 by Riley 3-1.
Meanwhile, Ollie Hill also progressed to the last 16, defeating Josh Reynolds and coming extremely close to victory against seventh seed Janet Adams, where he lost in the fifth. Hill was knocked out in the last 16 by Clayton.
Sam Clayton and Matthew Shaw retained their doubles crown with a convincing display.
Having won the event last year, the duo were expected to defend their crown, and did so in relatively comfortable style, dropping just one end on their way to victory.
The main story was the uprising of finalists Ben Fillingham and Alex Shaw, who stunned everybody by making their way to the final, dumping second seeds Sean Ellis and Seb Frere out of the competition in the quarter-final before shocking third seeds Geoff Dunne and Paul McKrieth in the semi-finals, with Shaw’s guile and explosive forehand smash working a treat with Fillingham’s all-out attack approach.
Meanwhile, Alex’s older brother Matthew and Clayton comfortably overcame Ollie Hill and Cameron Sandhu before defeating Keith Skarz and Bob Sanderson. In the semi-finals they met arguably their biggest challengers in the shape of Shamir Bose and Fraser Riley, who took a tight first end as they pinned the top seeds down the middle of the table. But Clayton and Shaw roared back to take the second and crucially save game points in the third to go 2-1 ahead, eventually winning in the fourth.
The final was a relatively one sided affair, with Clayton and Shaw having the advantage in the faster paced exchanges, eventually winning 11-8, 11-6, 11-4.
Stuart Sykes recovered from the disappointment of the Open Singles by winning the Veterans competition. Sykes, seeded at one, defeated Janet Adams in the final, who had previously overcome Shamir Bose over five entertaining ends and the man who knocked her out of the main event, Geoff Dunne. Meanwhile Sykes avenged his loss in the main event by defeating Paul McKrieth in the semi-finals having previously dispatched of Bob Sanderson and Seb Frere. Adams gave her all in the final, but Sykes’ craft and guile saw him claim the maiden Vets crown since its reintroduction to the Closed Championship competition.
Jonny Heslop won the final competition of the day to wrap up an impressive day for the youngster.
Heslop, a mid-season signing for league leaders Hotshots, defeated teammate Ollie Hill in the final to reassert his tag as one of the most promising youngster coming through the club’s ranks.
Hotshots’ dominance of the division was showcased in the event, with five of the six players progressing through the group stages a part of the Hotshots squad. The sole representative for the rest of the league was Evergreens’ Craig Butler, who was knocked out by Steve Marshall, who in return was defeated by Ollie Hill in the last four. In the other half of the draw, Heslop knocked out the league’s star performer Lewis Palmer to reach the final, before eventually overcoming Hill 3-1, having the upper hand as the rallies went on for long periods.
Ronnie McNamara battled his way past five fellow competitors to take the Division 3 title. McNamara won all of his matches in a round-robin tournament, winning the title deciding match with Joe Broadbent. McNamara was forced to work hard by all of his opponents, with Alan Shaw, Damien McCrink, Paul Gray and Broadbent all making life difficult for the top seed, but McNamara kept his nerve to secure the title to go alongside Leopards’ imminent capture of the Division 3 title.
Chrissy Sykes retained her Ladies title by the narrowest of margins as she defeated Ellen Adams on countback. The five ladies in the competition played one another, with Sykes and Adams the top two seeds. Despite Sykes losing a previous match, her victory over the previously unbeaten Adams meant they were tied, but with Sykes defeating Adams, she claimed the crown.