The new table tennis season has got underway with another hugely successful Cippenham
Junior 4-Star Open. Over 150 players, including several ranked at the top of national
lists, kept the tables busy for two days during which 375 individual matches were
staged and the winners emerged from all corners of the country and beyond. Saturday
saw the staging of the cadet (under-15) events while the juniors (under-18) took
to the tables on Sunday.
This tournament has a habit of bringing to attention players recently arrived in
the country and this year was no exception. Wah Yu Choong, a new arrival in Lancashire
from Hong Kong, tore through the Cadet Boys’ event dropping just one game, that to
Louie Evans, on his way to the final. Having won his preliminary round group, Choong
then went to work on Jarvis Lee, Ben Poulter and seventh seed Evans before mesmerising
second seed David Gofton in his semi-final.
Waiting for Choong in the final was top seed and pre-tournament favourite Louis Price.
Price did not have such an easy ride as Choong to the final and first dropped a game
in the group stage to Pranav Gudipati, the Cippenham player who later went on to
win the plate event. Joe Newman was then eliminated by Price 3-0, Nathaniel Saunders
3-1 and Charlie Graham-Adams 3-0 before a titanic struggle with Ben Hee, winner over
third seed Max Stevens one round earlier, in the semi-final. The first three games
of the semi all went to deuce and Hee took a 2-1 lead but the dynamic Price, ranked
third in England, fought back to win the fourth and fifth games 11-9, 11-7. In the
final, Choong was just too strong although Price did extend the match to four games.
The best local performance came from Shae Thakker as the Cippenham player won his
group and then eliminated Joshua Bruce and Felix Thomis before eventually falling
to Gofton in the quarter-final but not before he scared the second seed from the
Ormesby club in Middlesbrough by taking the first game.
It seemed for a while that the Choong family might have a double celebration but
the counterpart Cadet Girls’ Singles proved one step too far for Hang Ying Choong.
The top position in the draw kept changing hands. Defending champion and top seed
Gemma Kerr, ranked second in England, was beaten 3-2 in the second round by Millie
Rogove and then Rogove was beaten in the semi-final by Choong in a topsy-turvy match
which swung one way then the other and ended with the unlikely scoreline 13-11, 8-11,
0-11, 11-2, 11-5!
Meanwhile, the bottom of the draw was proceeding in a more orderly fashion as second
seed Darcy Proud beat off the challenges of Lara Whitton and Raquel Sao Pedro although
Proud did have to recover from losing the first two games in her semi-final against
Pedro. By the time the final came along, Proud was in full flow and, despite dropping
the third game, made short work of Choong.
Joseph Hee made his name a year ago when, recently arrived from Singapore, he won
the Cadet Boys’ Singles at the second running of Cippenham Junior 4-Star Open. This
year Hee was only in the older age category but again tore the field to pieces although
he did drop games to Branislav Zivkovic in round two and George Hazell in the quarter-final,
Six of the top eight seeds duly found their way into their allotted positions in
the quarter-finals. Cippenham’s Shae Thakker was responsible for one of the casualties
when he defeated eighth seed Sam Chesterman in round two but his run was ultimately
ended by Cacharel Mirjah-Mercer in the last sixteen but even then Thakker went into
a 2-1 lead before Mirjah-Mercer moved into another gear.
The carnage in the second quarter of the draw was all down to Jamie Nordin. Despite
only finishing second in his group, Nordin went on the rampage, defeating Rowan Jones,
fourth seed Artur Caltabiano and cadet runner-up Louis Price before seventh seed
Reece Chamdal proved too strong in the quarters. Chandal then became Hee’s victim
in their semi-final.
Third seed Ethan Walsh ended Mirjah-Mercer’s run in the quarters and then beat defending
champion and second seed James Smith in the semi-final, coming back from 2-0 down
while doing so. One round earlier Smith had beaten Israel Owolaja in what was a repeat
of the final from the previous tournament in April. The impressive defending of Hee
then easily overcame the more attacking style of Walsh in the final.
England number two Charlotte Bardsley, fresh from playing in the European Youth Top10
the previous weekend, was in a class of her own in the Junior Girls’ Singles, winning
the event without being extended past seven points in any game! After winning her
group, Bardsley put paid to the challenges of Mya Sultan, Darcie Proud and third
seed Beth Richards to reach the final.
In the bottom half of the draw, fourth seed Tiana Dennison was fighting her way through
to the final. A straight-forward win over Nikka Zareh was followed by a trickier
3-1 result against Gemma Kerr. This put Dennison into the semi-final where she must
have been surprised to meet Raquel Sao Pedro. This match was a classic, eventually
won 12-10 in the fifth by Dennison, Sao Pedro’s route to the semi-final started with
defeat against Nina Kadir in the preliminary round group. However, she then embarked
upon a run that saw her beat Mari-Grace Baldwin 3-2, coming from 2-0 down, Anaya
Patel and then second seed and England number six Kate Cheer 3-2.
The final itself was Bardsley’s easiest match of the day as she beat Dennison emphatically
11-4, 11-4. 11-3.
Cippenham Table Tennis Club is very grateful to the army of volunteers who made the
tournament run so successfully. Referee Steve Smith kept to his schedule while Mike
Atkinson and Ken Phillips were helped by Cippenham’s usual group of tireless workers.
Special thanks are also due to the fantastic group of umpires without whom the event
could not be staged.
For a large selection of action photographs, taken by Graham Trimming, please visit
the Club’s Flickr site.