Table tennis hat-trick of titles

Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis ChampionshipsJohn Paul pulled off another hat-trick at a dramatic championships which saw 34 players in eight events played over 106 matches on six tables during a marathon nine-and-a-half hours at North Walsham Sports Centre.

Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis Championships

John Paul pulled off another hat-trick at a dramatic championships which saw 34 players in eight events played over 106 matches on six tables during a marathon nine-and-a-half hours at North Walsham Sports Centre.

However the event was hit by a series of withdrawals including Ian Darricott, Phil Mole, John Hancock (Snr) and second seed John Hancock (Jnr).

All of which meant Paul started as favourite to win the blue ribbon open singles for the fourth successive year.

He started his defence by winning the last six points from 5-9 in the third as he defeated Philip Stone in straight.

There was a shock early exit for Martin Lawes as he fell to the attack of Scott Wallace in three, but the latter exited in straight to Paul during the quarter-finals which also saw newcomer Colin Humphries recover from a set down to knock-out Dave Johns.

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In the bottom half of the draw, marathon man Ray Howe recovered from two down to win over Edna Stone before coming back from the same position against Simon Halliday.

However it was Halliday who advanced to a quarter-final showdown with Dennis Elliott - Halliday unable to capitalise on his set-point chances at 10-8 in the middle set of his defeat in three.

Meanwhile John Vaughan was always in control in the last quarter against Alan Rutledge.

Humphries ended Paul's impressive run of straight set wins at the championships as he took the second 12-10 in the semi-final, but the other three all went to Paul 11-5.

The second semi saw Vaughan force a decider from two down against Elliott, but it was the latter that set up a repeat of the 2006 final.

Meanwhile the Veterans event saw some familiar faces involved in the latter stages, with Elliott defeating Johns in straight in the first semi. Although he only dropped one point in the second set, Paul was taken to deuce in both the others as he won against Vaughan in three.

Both the open and veterans final would saw Elliott take on Paul. The Veterans final came first and was one of the best finals that the championships had seen in years as Elliott's attack and Paul's defence seemed an equal match to result in spectacular rallies with Elliott taking the first set 12-10 on his second chance.

Paul then took charge, dropping just eight points in the next two sets. Paul had four championship points at 10-6 in the fourth, but Elliott fought back with the help of a couple of nets. In total Paul squandered seven championship points in the set as Elliott took the set 16-14 to take the final the distance.

But it was Paul who took the fifth set and the title on his eighth chance 11-4.

The open singles final that followed shortly after, concluding at 11.20pm, was something of an anticlimax - Elliott had given his all in the veterans and two service winners from Paul saw him close out an easy win in three.

The open doubles saw Vaughan and Elliott defeat Humphries and Hancock Jnr (before his withdrawal) in five, but they were downed in the semis by last year's finalists Wallace and Chris Marshall in another contest that went the distance.

Paul and Lawes had to save a set-point as they started their campaign against the Stones, but a foul serve handed them the title as they defeated Wallace and Marshall in straight in the final. Paul has now won this title the last three years, each with a different partner.

Meanwhile John Barron defeated both Edna Stone and Matt Robinson in five to reach the final of the plate, where he was unable to convert a set-point as James Baldock-Yaxley won the title in straight.

The defending champions in both handicap events crashed out in the first round - Anne Armitage losing in the singles to James Baldock-Yaxley (who was later knocked out by Phil Baker) and Wallace and Marshall going out to Ray Amo and Ron Millett.

However the events brought success to Beta team-mates Matt Robinson and Halliday. The pair won the doubles final 21-20 in the second over Amo and Millett, while after crushing Baker in his semi-final of the singles, Robinson's eight-point advantage was too much for Halliday to recover as they contested the final.

Tom Baldock-Yaxley had Philip Stone on the ropes in their quarter-finals of the second division singles, with Stone coming back from two sets to one down and saving match-point before winning 12-10 in the fifth.

After that the event became something of a championship among the Betas - two four-set matches seeing Halliday defeat Edna Stone before falling to her son Philip in the semi.

However Colin Humphries spoiled the Beta party, knocking out Robinson in the semi before beating Philip Stone in the final 11-6, 11-6, 6-11, 11-6.

The four Betas also met in the semi of the second division doubles - the Stones winning in five over Robinson and Halliday. In the final they were beaten in three by the scratch pairing of Humphries and Mike Toye who had combined into a lethal hitting partnership.

Humphries' terrific debut at the event and good performances from the younger players from the home teams were just two highlights of a terrific day and that brilliant veterans final will live long in the memory.

But at the end of the day it is a familiar story - although he was tested a lot more this time, John Paul's dominance continues.

Next year he will go for five in a row in both the open and veterans titles.

Thanks went to tournament organisers Chris and Pat Johnson, Albert Sawyer and Derek Philpott plus Brenda Baldock for running the raffle and all who helped set up and clear up the event.