PITCHFORD & DRINKHALL secure singles titles
England Men’s no. 1 Liam PITCHFORD and Women’s no. 2 Joanna DRINKHALL battled through gruelling tests at Ponds Forge to take the main prizes at the 55th Senior English National Table Tennis Championships (Feb 28 – Mar 2, 2014). Men’s Singles - Twent
England Men’s no. 1 Liam PITCHFORD and Women’s no. 2 Joanna DRINKHALL battled through gruelling tests at Ponds Forge to take the main prizes at the 55th Senior English National Table Tennis Championships (Feb 28 – Mar 2, 2014).
Men’s Singles - Twenty-year-old PITCHFORD successfully defended his title from 2012/13 after fighting off severe pressure from both Andrew BAGGALEY and Paul DRINKHALL in Sheffield. The top seed had earlier cruised past David MCBEATH 4-1 in their Sunday morning quarter-final before he took on BAGGALEY in the most exhilarating men’s singles match.
BAGGALEY, who had previously beaten PITCHFORD in a men’s single final in Sheffield, was on blistering form to shock the hot favourite for the title. However, despite pushing the Chesterfield athlete all the way, the 31-year-old fell narrowly short in their semi-final 4-3 (7-11, 14-12, 9-11, 15-13, 11-6, 10-12, 11-9).
This set up a repeat of both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 finals with Paul DRINKHALL which proved equally dramatic and entertaining. The English no. 1 took a 1-0 lead as expected but was surprised to fall 2-1 behind when DRINKHALL, recovering from a hip injury, roared back into contention.
However, just when it was required, the world no. 55 brought out his ‘A’ game to secure the next three ends and his second consecutive Men’s Singles title.
The champion said: “It’s been a tough day but I’m glad to get over the final hurdle – both were tough matches. It’s always going to be hard at these championships and both of us played really well at some points.
“I don’t really know [what the difference was], there were really just a few points in it and it could have gone either way but luckily it went for me today.
“I’ve had a good season in Germany and I’m playing well. At the moment I’m just hoping to keep improving.”
Women’s Singles - Joanna DRINKHALL surprised the form books and beat Kelly SIBLEY in the Women’s Singles Final for the first time in four years to deny her international teammate of a record-equalling victory.
Neither wasted any time in re-acquainting with each other at the final stage as they both cruised through their knockout matches. DRINKHALL seeing off Karina Le FEVRE and Hannah HICKS 4-0 in her quarter and semi-final appearances, while Sibley brushed aside the challenges from both Yolanda KING (4-1) and Tin-Tin HO (4-1).
Despite last year’s tight 4-3 final the money was still on Sibley to earn a fourth consecutive title and equal the record set by Jill HAMMERSLEY/Nicola DEATON because of the recent history between the English numbers 1 and 2. Not just at the nationals but also in the recent Bribar Bristol Grand Prix, the 25-year-old has had the needle over her great friend and rival and would have been confident heading into the key match.
However, despite having a 2-1 lead, SIBLEY was unable to take control as England’s top defender, Drinkhall won her third title by wearing down her opponent in the following three games.
The 26-year-old exclaimed: “I’m really chuffed. It’s always a hard match against Kelly and it means so much to me to win. When it’s your goal and you fail to reach it three years in a row you think it might not be your turn. “I was really consistent today and didn’t give her any cheap points – that was the difference.”
Both Liam and Joanna were also successful in the doubles events as they, alongside respective partners Paul DRINKHALL and Kelly SIBLEY won entertaining finals.
Paul and Liam won a nail-biter with Andrew BAGGALEY and Darius KNIGHT to retain their title from 2012/13 while Joanna and Kelly beat juniors Tin-Tin HO and Maria TSAPTSINOS 3-1 to earn their fifth consecutive title and sixth win overall. Full final scores are listed below.
55th English Senior National Championships Results:
Men’s Singles: Liam PITCHFORD bt Paul DRINKHALL 4-2 (11-8, 8-11, 13-15, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9)
Women’s Singles: Joanna DRINKHALL bt Kelly SIBLEY 4-2 (9-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9)
Men’s Doubles: Liam PITCHFORD/Paul Drinkhall bt Andrew BAGGALEY/Darius KNIGHT 3-2 (11-9, 9-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-9)
Women’s Doubles: Kelly SIBLEY/Joanna DRINKHALL bt HO Tin Tin/Maria TSAPTINOS 3-1 (11-8, 12-10, 8-11, 11-9)