Corby Smash Junior 1 star Tournament (Nov 26th 2017)
Corby Smash Table Tennis Centre played host to another excellent junior 1-star tournament on Sunday November 26th which concluded with a high quality and entertaining under 15 final between Alex Lee (Staffs) and Lewis Marsh (Kent) and also featured two of England’s top 20 juniors contesting the under 18 final. But more of that to come later in the report.
The day started off with an under 11 round-robin competition featuring six players. The top two players on paper going into this event were Nottinghamshire’s James Millward and Sam Gabriel of Middlesex with just two points separating the pair of them on the latest Table Tennis England Cadet Ranking list. With the two of them due to meet in their last match, could any of the other group rivals dent their hopes of claiming first place?
Millward started off tentatively and lost the first set of the day’s action to Northants Ben Aldridge but quickly asserted his authority from then on to win 3-1. After despatching Henry James 3-0, Millward found himself in a battle with Damien Mutch (Middlesex). Mutch led 2-1 but Millward turned the match around to claim a 14-12, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8 win to keep his hopes alive. Millward then beat Sienna Jetha 3-0 to ensure he went into his final match against Gabriel undefeated.
Gabriel had looked on top form throughout this event and had breezed through all his matches with 3-0 wins with only Aldridge getting close to taking a set off the Middlesex youngster and this form continued with a comprehensive 11-8, 11-1, 12-10 victory over Millward as he deservedly won the under 11 event with Millward taking second spot. Mutch, having lost only to Gabriel and Milward claimed third place. Aldridge finished fourth, James took fifth place with Jetha sixth.
A smaller entry than normal in the under 13s meant there were just two groups in this event with Gabriel again seeded alongside Jamie Anderson (Northants). In this older age group, Gabriel didn’t have things all his own way in the group stages with Robert Wood (Essex) giving him a stern test, but Gabriel withstood this challenge to edge the win 11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9. Wood and Gabriel would win their other two matches 3-0 to qualify from the group with Reece Radford (Northants) third and Sienne Jetha fourth.
Group B was reduced to just three players when Damien Mutch withdrew. This left Sayan Jetha, Ibrahim Abdullah and Anderson to battle it out and it was Abdullah who took the honours courtesy of two very good 3-0 wins over his group rivals. Jetha eased his way into second place and the knockout stage with a 3-1 win over the seeded Anderson who slipped into the consolation event.
Both semi-finals were classic encounters, and both went all the way to a deciding set. Abdullah raced into a 2-0 lead over Wood, but any thoughts of a quick win were extinguished with Wood taking the next two sets to square the match at two sets apiece. The fifth set proved to be the closest of the lot with Abdullah just holding off Wood to complete an 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 5-11, 12-10 win to earn his final spot. The other semi-final between Jetha and Gabriel was just as intense but a lot more fluctuating. Jetha took the first set 11-9 but Gabriel then seemed to be in full control as he took a 2-1 lead courtesy of wins by 11-6 and 11-4. Back cam Jetha though with an 11-5 game of his own to take the match to the decider and with momentum on his side, he sealed a 3-2 win with an 11-6 set.
The two finalists had met in the group stage with Abdullah pulling off a 3-0 win and the final looked like being a repeat of this score as he took the first two sets 11-3, 11-6. Jetha though was in determined mood and displayed excellent fighting spirit to claim the third set 11-7. This proved to just a temporary setback to Abdullah’s title quest though and an 11-5 win in the fourth set gave him the title.
The under 13 consolation final was between two of the host club players and it was Radford who pulled off a surprising 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, 12-10 win over Anderson and pick up his first ever medal.
And so, onto that under 18 event. With two of the top 20 English juniors playing, it was always going to be a tough job for the others in the field to progress to the final and so it proved as both Guarav Aravind (Middlesex) and Sam Wilson (Northants) eased their way into the final without dropping a set.
At the group stage, top seed Aravind swiftly despatched Daniel Andrews (Leics), Loius Clark and George Marsh (Kent) to take top spot. With Marsh and Andrews both securing wins over Clark, the clash between this pair would decide who took second spot and went into the main knockout draw with the vanquished player dropping into the consolation draw along with Clark. The first three sets were very even and saw Andrews establish a 2-1 lead. At this point, Marsh found an extra gear and came back to claim a 3-2 win 9-11, 11-9, 15-17, 11-6, 11-4.
Wilson disposed of Justin Lam (Surrey) and Callum Watson-Humphreys with ease but faced a tougher match against the unknown Long Ly who has only recently started playing again following a break of several years. Ly pushed Wilson hard in the first two games but Wilson took them 14-12, 15-13 before an 11-7 game saw him emerge a 3-0 victor. Ly picked up quick wins over Lam and Watson-Humphreys to take second place with Lam taking third ahead of Watson-Humphreys.
Alex Lee proved to be a step above his two opponents in group 3 with 3-0 wins over both Alex Cochrane (Northants) and Joseph Cox respectively. The battle for second place between Cochrane and Cox was much closer though and after five fluctuating games, it was Cochrane who took the spoils with an 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 6-11, 13-11 win.
Group 4 also went with the seeding as Lewis Marsh (Kent) took top spot ahead of Lewis Hillery (Northants) and Anchal Marg. Both Lewis’ beat Garg 3-0 but Marsh just had a little too much in his locker for Hillery to pick up a close 3-1 win.
The two top seeds continued their demolition of their opponents with Ly and George Marsh both going down in straight games respectively. Lewis Marsh ensured the Marsh family name would make the semi-final with a 3-0 win over Cochrane which meant only Lee’s 3-1 win over Hillery required an extra game to be played. Lee and Marsh’s efforts were brought to an abrupt end at the semi-final stage with both falling to 3-0 defeats against the “big two”. This meant the final would be played by two players ranked in the top 20 on the England Junior ranking list. With only 47 points separating the pair of them, the crowd gathered enthusiastically for the final to see if Aravind’s brilliantly smooth attacking play could get the better of Wilson’s guile and defensive wizardry. On this occasion though, Wilson had no answer to Aravind’s variety and consistency as the top seed ran out the winner and Under champion courtesy of a 3-0 win with scores of 11-7, 16-14, 11-9.
The under 18 consolation event saw Daniel Andrews take the minor title following a 3-0 win over Justin Lam.
The under 15 category was probably the most evenly contested event of the day and easily produced the most dramatic finale of the day. Fitting then that this event was the final event of the day.
Alex Lee went into the event as the top seed and duly won his group with only Robert Wood managing to take a single game from him. Both Wood and Connie Reynolds beat Reece Radford which meant their match was of huge significance with the winner progressing to the knockout and the loser dropping into the consolation draw. Wood started the better of the two players and claimed the first game 11-8. Reynolds was not to be denied though and came back to take the next three games 11-8, 11-7, 14-12 to progress.
Second seed Lewis Marsh topped his group with three straight games wins over Joseph Cox, Alex Cochrane and Sayan Jethwa. After Cox and Cochrane had both beaten Jetha, it was Cox who claimed a close 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 win over Cochrane to progress into the main draw.
Justin Lam continued the run of the seeded player winning all their group matches 3-0 as he disposed of Sienna Jethwa. George Marlow and Callum Watson-Humphreys. Jethwa and Watson-Humphreys both saw off Marlow 3-1 meaning their head to head match would decide who progressed to the main knockout draw. A brilliant match ended with Jethwa sealing a 4-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7 to take second spot.
Group 4 followed the same pattern with the seeded player (Lewis Hillery) winning all his matches 3-0. Louis Clark won the battle with Ibrahim Abdullah to take second place leaving Abdullah in third and Anchal Garg fourth.
Reynolds and Marsh played the tie of the round in the quarter-finals as their clash swung one way and then other and then back again. Marsh opened up a 2-0 lead (11-8, 11-6). Reynolds fought back to level the match at 2-2 with scores of 11-9 and 11-8. The deciding game was neck and neck but it was Marsh that finally closed it out 11-9 to progress to the semi-final. Louis Clark produced a minor upset to defeat Lam 3-1 with the other two quarter-finals going the way of the seeds as Hillery and Lee proved too strong for Jethwa and Cox.
At the semi-final stage Clark took a game off of Marsh in a 3-1 defeat whilst Lee was clinical in his match with Hillery to win 3-0 and set up a final between the top two seeds and a match that did not disappoint the watching crowd. Marsh gained an early advantage as he took the opener 11-9 before Lee promptly levelling with a narrow 12-10 win of his own and then moving into a 2-1 lead following an 11-7 game. A close fourth end went the way of Marsh 12-10 to leave the final perfectly poised at 2-2 and the supporters of each player nervous with fear and excitement. Lee started the better of the two combatants in the this deciding game and held his nerve to take the game 3-2 to take the under 15 championship title.
The under 15 consolation event was won by Alex Cochrane who overcame his Corby Smash clubmate Reece Radford 3-0.