Thaxter retains North Norfolk table tennis title
A total of 38 players battled it out over a duration of ten and a quarter hours as North Walsham Sports Centre played host to the Star Paving Services North Norfolk Championships.
With almost a third of the 112 matches played going the distance, there was drama all the way in each of the eight events.
In the top half of the draw of the Open Singles Paul Price forced a decider from two sets down against Jack Bramwell in their second round match, but a run of four straight points from 4-4 was key in the fifth as Bramwell progressed. 2009 Champion John Batchford beat Mary Sawyer in straight before winning his quarter-final from a set down against Bramwell to set-up a semi-final meeting with defending champion Robin Thaxter, for whom good starts helped him take the first two sets.
Batchford turned defence into attack as he recovered from 4-8 down and then saved match-point at 9-10 to take the third 12-10. Thaxter recovered from his first lost set of the competition with more strong attack in the fourth and took his third match-point after Batchford netted on the 21st stroke of the rally. In the bottom half of the draw four set wins for Ray Howe and Teucer Wilson against Ian Darricott and Joe Kirkup respectively saw them meet in the quarter-final. In a battle of defence, Howe needed six chances to take a two sets lead before Wilson made a comeback. The point of the day came in the decider and saw Wilson at 2-0 scampering all around the table to keep in the rally before netting on the 22nd stroke of the rally. Howe recovered from 2-6 and a net-cord in his favour on the 34th stroke at 9-7 to set up a match-point which he duly took.
Tom Baldock-Yaxley beat team-mate Andy Beane in straight before having to dig deep in his quarter-final with Dennis Elliott – Baldock-Yaxley came back from match-point down in the fourth set of his 11-9, 9-11, 3-11, 12-10, 11-6 win. The semi-final saw Howe win the last four points from 7-7 to take the third, but Baldock-Yaxley's attack came through in four as he set up a repeat of last year's final. It would also be the third straight appearance in the final for Baldock-Yaxley who had yet to win a set and Thaxter won the first 11-4 as the North Walsham player made a nervous start. Thaxter won six straight points from 3-7 in the second, but inspired play from Baldock-Yaxley took the next four as he levelled. A handful of errors at crucial times from Baldock-Yalxey and pieces of luck saw Thaxter keep ahead and he took the next two sets 11-9, 11-7 to conclude a successful defence. The final of the plate was also settled in four as Andy Marsh – who had won the first round of that event from two sets down to Barry Evans – won from a set down against Simon Halliday.
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In the first round of the Open Doubles, Joe Kirkup and Philip Stone dropped the second set 11-0 to Eric Dolden and John Hall before squandering match-point in the fourth – and then the set on a Stone double-hit. However Kirkup and Stone won the decider and then saved two match-points in the fourth before falling to Elliott and Howe in five in the quarters. Beane and Batchford won the semi-final against Elliott and Howe in four. The first set of the other semi was key as from deuce seven points were won against serve as defending champions Darricott and Thaxter beat Halliday and Price 15-13, 11-3, 11-4.
Halliday and Price returned later in the final of the Handicap Doubles where they met Anne Armitage and Alf Greer (+13) who won in straight. It was a case of third time lucky in the finals for Halliday – in the Handicap Singles he met Thaxter. Halliday had a 12 point start and two tense and even sets were shared before Halliday took the decider 21-10.
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The Open Doubles final also went the distance as Beane and Batchford took a two set lead, before Darricott and Thaxter needed four chances to take the third and then won six straight points from 4-4 in the fourth. Beane and Batchford regained their composure, led the decider 5-1 and took their fourth championship point.
An epic quarter-final in the Veterans (over 55's) saw both Elliott and Colin Humphries hit outrageous flukes to save match-point against the other – Humphries came from two sets down, saved three match-points and took his sixth to win 18-16 in the fifth. Humphries nearly repeated the trick in the semi – from two sets down he had match-points against Howe (who had earlier beaten both Evans and John Vaughan in five) at 10-9 and 11-10 in the decider, but Howe won the fifth 13-11. Howe was a point from winning the title in 2012, but did so this year with a comfortable final win over John Welsh.
Derek Sidaway won the third set 21-19 as he won his first round second division singles match against James Morter in four. Sidaway beat Wren Thatcher in the quarters with each of the five sets going beyond deuce, before losing out to Stuart Hook in four in the semis. Hook put up a brave fight in the final, going down in five to Darricott. Finally Darricott took his second title as he teamed up with Terry Lawes as they survived a tight five set semi against Armitage and Greer and then won the final of the second division doubles 12-10 in the fourth against Welsh and Sidaway.