Harold Wilcock Hard Bat Table Tennis Championship 2014/15
SEAN DREWRY ADDS HARD BAT CROWN TO HIS COLLECTION
The U’16 Singles champion Sean Drewry added the Harold Wilcock Hard Bat Cup to his collection which includes the Malcolm Looker Memorial Trophy for winning the Junior Top 12 competition late last year. Drewry met the fifth-seed Andy Horne in the hard bat final. Although there were some fine rallies Horne was hard pushed to land any winning shots whereas fourth-seeded Drewry’s forehand smash often delivered the knockout blow.
There was a record entry of 44 players for this fun handicap event which was held at the NSC last Wednesday evening. Over a third of the field were juniors so it was necessary to ensure and early finish. Hence, competition organiser Malcolm Lambert had split the players into eleven pre-drawn groups playing on a round robin basis with only the group winners progressing to the knockout stages. With handicaps ranging from (0) to (10) each game was played up to 21 points but time constraints meant that each match was restricted to one set.
Some of the competitors were quicker than others to adapt so in the early stages many rallies ended with wild whacks rather than controlled attacks. However, as play progressed the older players recalled the exaggerated strokes needed to clear the net, and the juniors just hit out with nonchalant ease.
Seven of the top seeds made it through to the knockout rounds but the biggest shock in the round-robin matches came in group ten where young Billy Cain, handicap (7), from Division Three beat Keeran Chan (0), Adam Davies (3) and Heather Kennett (7) to top the group. Davies dispatched Chan 21/10 and Kennett who also caused consternation for Chan by chopping him out 21/19.
In group two unbeaten Rob Sim (4) from The Rowan Tree out-smashed Sam Bailey (0) 21/9 to log his place in the quarter-finals. Bailey beat Kevin Drewry (5) and Zac Walker (7) who dispatched Drewry 21/17 in their wooden spoon decider.
Steve Curtis (3) jinxed Jane Kneale (0) to top group two having also beaten David Buck (5) and Tyler Hannah (8). The other three players finished with a point apiece as Kneale hoodwinked Hannah 21/19, Hannah bushwhacked Buck 21/19 who had knocked out Kneale 21/15.
Group eleven pitted the eleventh-seed Aaron Faragher (3) against Ben Christian (3) seeded twelfth so whilst Christian’s 21/19 win wouldn’t qualify as a miracle it was enough for him to oust the last of the top seeds after they had both beaten John Atherton (7) by two points and three points respectively. Unfortunately, the fourth player in their group failed to appear.
Three first-round matches were needed in order to get eight quarter-finalists. In the first match Graham McFarlane (2) met Castletown golf pro Andy Patterson who had to play off a handicap of (1). Patterson’s shots went out of bounds far too often so McFarlane went through 21/12. In the second such match Christian (3) was able to beat Cain (7) 21/18 after Cain sacrificed his 18/15 lead. Last year’s beaten finalist Malc Lewis (3), the winner of group eight, had a tougher time beating Curtis (3). Their tense tussle ended 21/19 but it could have gone either way.
Andy Horne beat Mike Chapman (5) 21/14 and then survived a 24/22 nail biter with Juan Moore Jnr (4) to reach the first quarter-final where he outhit Adrian Tinkler (5) 21/19. Tinkler had previously beaten Jack Craik (7) 21/16 but unfortunately their group had been reduced to two players due to the unexpected absence of a junior and the disappointing non-attendance of the competition’s top-seed who had won this event on numerous occasions.
McFarlane (2) turned the form book upside down, dominating the second quarter-final to beat the 3rd seed Julian Briercliffe 21/14. Briercliffe had battered his way through his earlier group matches with wins of 24/22, 21/16, and 21/19 over Matt Evans (4), Harry Walters (5) and Matt Emison (9) respectively.
Christian (3) met the fourth-seed Drewry (0) in the third quarter-final which finished 21/18 in favour of the eventual trophy winner Drewry who had polished off Jackie Gill (4), Sasha Thomas (5) and young Fin Hill (8) in their round-robin matches.
Sim (4) and Lewis (3) contested the last smashing quarter-final which the Manx Youth Games table tennis co-ordinator Lewis won 21/13. At that point Lewis had high hopes of reaching his fourth final but it was not to be.
Horne and McFarlane needed a tie-breaker to decide the outcome of their encounter. McFarlane took the attack to Horne who was forced to chip and chop the ball back whilst he waited for a high one to hit. The game ebbed and flowed but the tide turned when McFarlane got bogged down on 20 points and Horne scrapped through 22/20.
Lewis looked confident at the start of the second semi-final with Drewry, but his three point handicap did not last long and Drewry made fewer mistakes as the match went on. Consequently, despite Lewis making every effort to blast his way to another final it was Drewry who showed his class and went through 21/16.
Neither player had reached the final of this competition before so a new name was about to be inscribed on the trophy. Drewry was in devastating form and dominated the rallies to humble Horne 21/10 and carry off the cup.
The majority of the competitors said that they had enjoyed the event. It was just a shame that there were some surprising ‘no-shows’ causing complaints which could have been avoided if timely apologies for absence had been received.