Thaxter wins four titles at North Norfolk Table Tennis Championships
Thirty-one players battled it out in eight events at the 2012 Star Paving Services North Norfolk Championships as the six tables witnessed 106 matches played out over a duration of 10 hours.
The day started with a minute's silence in memory of Maureen Chapman and Terry Copland.
In the first round of the open singles, Ray Howe had a couple of chances to take John Batchford the distance, but the 2009 champion hung on to advance with a 13-11 in the fourth set win before advancing to the semi-finals with straight set wins over both Ian Darricott and Colin Humphries. There he met Tom Baldock-Yaxley, who had defeated Dennis Elliott in the quarters and Baldock-Yaxley also needed four sets to defeat Batchford to reach his second consecutive final.
In the top half of the draw, Hubert Cheng had a terrific straight sets win over Andy Beane in the first round before losing out to Robin Thaxter in straight sets in the quarters. In the semi Thaxter met defending champion John Paul, who had won his quarter-final in four sets against Peter Ward. Paul had a set-point chance at 10-9 to take a two set lead over Thaxter, but the Gresham's School player worked an opening to hit a winning smash on the 16th stroke of the rally to save it and took the next two points to draw level. That proved the turning point as Thaxter went on to win in four sets. And it was more positive play from Thaxter that saved three set-points at 7-10 in the third and another at 10-11 as he defeated Baldock-Yaxley 11-6, 11-7, 13-11 in the final.
Simon Halliday and Batchford won two five set matches – against Beane and Elliott and John Vaughan and Mary Sawyer – in the Open Doubles before going down in four sets in the semis to the pairing of Thaxter and Darricott. In the final the Gresham's duo took the first two sets against defending champions Paul and Howe 11-9, 11-7. Last year's winners had three set-points at 10-7 to take the third, but were forced into errors on the first two before the third saw Thaxter hit a winner on the 44th stroke of an extraordinary rally that used all four corners of the table. Paul and Howe had a further three set-points on their own serve – Howe missing a backhand on the 21st stroke of set-point six – but the Gresham's duo took their second championship point to win an extremely tense set 16-14 to take the title.
In the quarter-final of the veterans, for players aged over 55, Barry Evans edged out John Welsh 12-10 in the fifth while Humphries defeated an out of sorts Elliott in four. The semi-finals saw Paul need four sets to defeat Humphries, while a 5-0 lead in the decider eventually proved conclusive for Howe as he got past Evans 12-14, 11-6, 17-19, 11-6, 11-3 to set up a final against team-mate and doubles partner Paul. Howe took the first two sets before Paul clawed back the third. Strong attack saw Howe set up two championship points at 10-8 but he tightened up as four unforced errors saw Paul snatch the set 12-10. And the fifth set was a similar story as Paul won the last five points from 6-9 down to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. There was some consolation for Howe in the plate event for first round losers of the open singles as he swept past De Neve, Beane and Philip Stone to reach the final where he also did not drop a set, although needed five match-points to get past Charlie Usher.
In the second division singles Peter Ward avenged his recent loss in the League to knock out one of the favourites in the first round as he defeated Hubert Cheng in straight.
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Jack Bramwell also had an excellent first round win in straight against Darricott and then won his quarter-final in four sets against Toby Usher before getting past Evans in straight to reach the final, where he came up against Ward who won a five set thriller against Phil Mole in the semis (Mole back from two sets down against Joe Kirkup in the quarters).
Ward had already beaten Bramwell in five in the open singles and did so again in five in this final.
The second division doubles was hit by a string of withdrawals – work commitments forcing Bramwell and partner Joe Kirkup to withdraw after reaching the final. That meant the second semi was played to decide the title – Thaxter and Cheng winners over Mole and Toby Usher.
Last years finalists in the Handicap singles both suffered early round exits on the deciding point – Charlie Usher and Paul Price both losing 21-20 in the third to Vaughan and Sawyer respectively, while De Neve also beat Philip Stone by that same close margin.
Sawyer came back from 3-17 down in the decider to edge Clive Smith 21-19 in the quarters before bowing out to De Neve in the semis.
Humphries twice came back from a set down to reach the semis where he defeated Vaughan's conqueror Evans 21-20 in the second. And Humphries defeated De Neve in three sets in a tense final.
The Handicap Doubles final also went the distance. Humphries and Thaxter had won three matches in the deciding set to get there and in the final beat Barry Evans and Adam Partridge which gave Humphries his second title of the day and Thaxter an unprecedented fourth.