Championships Review Part Three – Finals Night
Thursday 23rd April 2017, Champions Manor Hall
Full match videos of the entire evening’s table tennis can be found on the league’s Facebook page, credit to Eamonn Hall for organising a live feed and capturing great, birds-eye view images. The videos are worth watching for Hall's colourful fashion commentary alone.
So here we are, the grand finale of the Individual Closed Championships. Another great effort led by Jan Dadswell and Val Board taking care of intermission refreshments pushes the tournament fund-raising over the £900 mark – again, thank you very much everybody for your support. Without further ado, a review of the action:
The opening match is the first Mens Singles Semi-Final between the second seeded lefty Gary Young and sixth seeded rapidly improving Reece Seddon. A slightly nervy first end sees the points go tit for tat until 5-5 when Young pulls away to lead 9-5, eventually edging it 11-9. Armed with some coaching advice from Ben Warner, Seddon comes back strong in the second end taking it 11-8. The first point of the third end is a cracking rally which Seddon wins with a series of backhand counter-hits imparting some sidespin. It seems to give Seddon greater confidence and put the pressure on Young, as Seddon races into a 5-0 lead. Young calms down and does well to win the next four points to trail 4-5. Then something I have not personally witnessed before, as a dispute arises as to whether or not Young's eyeball trick shot counts - it does apparently! So, 5-5. Both players continue to trade blows and Seddon begins to put more power behind his attacks to take the end 11-9 and go into a 2-1 lead. In the fourth end Seddon leads 6-3 and Young makes an excellent retrieve from a net-ball to win the point. Seddon puts a daring, wide angled serve into Young's forehand which pays off, and then establishes a 10-4 lead, eventually keeping the ball on the table to win 11-5 and book his place in the Mens SIngles Final. Umpired by Peter Ballard.
Next up is the second Mens Singles Semi-Final between fifth seed spinny Keith Adams and eighth seed the smooth Charles Sweeny. In the first end Sweeny struggles to find his range as several of his usually-reliable attacks go long, and Adams finds a lot of success in blocking off his opponent to establish a lead. Nevertheless, Sweeny recovers well and leads 9-8 and then 10-9, but Adams takes the initiative with some aggressive loops to win the next three points taking it 12-10. The second end sees Adams impressively race into a 10-3 lead, eventually closing out 11-7 after a few nervy errors. In the third end Sweeny's fearsome backhand attacks start to kick in as he takes it convincingly 11-7. In the fourth end, at 7-5 in Sweeny's favour he gets into a rally of back-to-the-wall lobbing, managing to force a loop error from Adams to win the point. At 10-7 up Sweeny executes a reverse pendulum topspin serve to take it 11-7 and level the games at 2-2. We are already in our first fifth of the evening, and at 4-4 Adams executes a loop to lead 5-4 at change of ends. Despite a few uncharacteristic errors from Adams, Sweeny also miss-times some balls and Adams leads 9-7 and serving. Sweeny levels to 9-9 and then plays a wide cross-court block off an Adam's loop to lead 10-9. Match point Sweeny, and he keeps his composure under pressured conditions to close out 11-9 and book his place in the Mens Singles Final against Reece Seddon. Umpired by Steve Scholz.
Onto the first Final of the night, the Mixed Doubles Final between 2016 finalists Dawn Baldry/Ciaran Whelan and new pairing Jan Fuller/Gary Young - two righty-lefty partnerships. I don't know if Mixed Doubles is naturally funny or it's just when you get Bill Smith in the umpire chair, but hilarity ensues. In the first end at 4-2 to Baldry/Whelan, Bill calls the score incorrectly as 3-3 which evokes a classic one-liner from Whelan, "come on Bill, sort it out mate!", but sort it out he does not as the next point Bill calls it wrong again much to the amusement of the crowd. Baldry/Whelan take the first end 11-6, keeping Fuller's vicious hits at bay. But Fuller/Young bite back and level with 11-5 in the second. In the third end at 5-2 to Baldry/Whelan, Whelan executes a beautifully placed hooked side-spin loop to finish the point, then at 6-3 after a great rally Young plays a powerful backhand away from the table which Baldry takes in her stride performing the famous "Baldry Smash" off the bounce. After some good play from all four players Baldry/Whelan edge the third 11-9 to spring into a 2-1 lead. Could this be their year? It turns out, yes! Whelan/Baldry win the fourth end 11-7. So there you have it, Ciaran Whelan strolls onto the table, collar up and with a borrowed bat, and plays with admirable consistency given the pressured occasion of Finals Night, and his extreme spin coupled with Dawn Baldry's hard hits prove too much for the opposition and gain the pair their first (I suspect of many) Mixed Doubles title, and well-deserved having beaten Lin Roff/Duncan Taylor in their Semi-Final, and getting revenge on Fuller/Young from their Group match to boot! "Umpired" by Bill Smith.
The fourth match of the night is the Junior Singles Final (Under 18s) between the top two seeds Kieran Stanley and Luca Bailey. This is the first time a Junior event Final has been held on a Burnham Finals Night in a long time, possibly ever. I think everyone is in wholehearted agreement that it was a great idea to do so, as Stanley and Bailey put on an excellent display of table tennis, a great representation of their age group and a good sign of an increasing junior standard in our league. The first end sees some high quality, fearless attacking from both players and, at 11-12 to Bailey, Stanley executes a third ball attack but does not recover quite well enough as Bailey makes an excellent return to the middle of the table as the ball passes his opponent. Stanley returns strong in the second game to take it 11-3. The third game involves a few more unforced errors from both players as perhaps some nerves creep in, Stanley landing a few more shots on the table than Bailey to nab it 11-8. The fourth is closely contests, at 9-9 Bailey has the advantage of serve and goes for a side-topspin tomahawk; Stanley pushes it long and with some fortune the ball clips the edge of the table. The next point Stanley takes his chance with a powerful cross-court forehand winner to take his first Junior Singles title. Umpired by Lee McHugh.
On to the Veterans Singles Final, second seed Gary Young versus third seed Kevin Read, both players looking to claim their first title in this event. The first end sees some brilliantly varied and consistent play from Young who races into a 6-1 lead, executing loops, blocks, chops and lobs, and Young does not let up as he claims the first end 11-4. Read begins to hit his stride in the second game and leading 10-9 with Young serving Read plays a second-ball forehand loop to take it 11-9. Read continues good form in the third game as he reads Young's serves particularly well and covers many of the rallies with his forehand to put pressure on his opponent, winning 11-8. At 1-1 in the fourth the players play a kind of "chicken" backhand to backhand rally and it is Young who blinks first as he takes on a forehand that goes in the bottom of the net. After some long, cautious rallies Read gets himself into a commanding 9-5 lead, just two points away from the title. Leading 10-6 and serving Young lands a ball with a thick edge and this seems to be a catalyst of some kind as Young makes an excellent recovery to 10-10. You can see Read decide that aggression is the key to closing out the match, and first he executes a third ball attack to take it to 11-10 with Young serving, and then Read plays a brilliant down-the-line winner off of Young's serve to take the fourth end 12-10 and claim his first Vets Singles trophy. Umpired by Lin Roff.
An intermission follows with some friendly an amicable chit chat.
Revitalised by teas and coffees the players return to the table for the Mens Doubles Final between first seeds Kevin Read/Duncan Taylor and second seeds John Poysden/Gary Young. Poysden/Young a new and dangerous righty-lefty partnership going for their debut title, while the experienced attack-defence duo of Read/Taylor hope to make it three titles adding to their 2014/2015 successes. In the first game Read/Taylor lead 10-8 and Taylor gets a rush of blood to the head as he executes a huge forehand loop to take the first end. The second game sees Poysden/Young a bit too consistent for their counterparts as they take it convincingly 11-6 to level 1-1. In the third game it's like watching twins as you cannot tell which one is Taylor and which one is Read, both retrieving everything that Poysden/Young throw at them, as Read/Taylor take it 11-4. The fourth game is the closest and all four pairings are covering distance around the table as the pairs try to do each other on angles. Read/Taylor get themselves to a 10-8 with match point, which Poysden/Young recover to 10-9 with a point-ending forehand smash from Young, but the following point Read/Taylor keep their cool and Read plays a well-placed ball into Poysden's crossover point to force the error and take it 11-9 to reclaim their title. Umpired by Tim Huxtable.
The penultimate match of the night is the Ladies Singles FInal between two well-established players in the Burnham league, first seed Dawn Baldry and second seed Lin Roff. These two met in the Chelmsford League Championships Ladies Singles Final which Dawn impressively won in three close ends 11-8, 11-8, 11-9, so Roff is out for revenge. Roff has won the Burnham Ladies eight times while Baldry has won it twice. The first game sees Baldry lead 7-6 and then impressively take the next four points, closing out with a quick backhand counter-hit. In the second and third ends Baldry leads 5-2 and 4-0 respectively but Lin is all "not tonight Dawnie" and imposes her trademark counter-attacking style to take them 11-8, 11-7 and gain a 2-1 lead. Baldry levels 2-2 by closing out the fourth end 11-8 with a strong forehand. At 4-4 in the fifth and final end things are tense and Baldry does very well to gain momentum, and there was no looking book as at 10-5 Baldry plays a backhand flat hit into Roff's backhand, Roff's instinctive return setting up the fearsome "Baldry Smash" which flies into the table with a trail of flames earning Baldry her third Burnham Ladies Singles title.
So, no match has been decided in straight sets so far and after a long evening of ping for the players and spectators we reach the final conclusion of the Championships with the Mens Singles Final. Sixth seed Reece Seddon versus eighth seed Charles Sweeny, illustrating what a truly open contest this event is this year. The smooth Sweeny looks as chilled as he would be sitting at a bar. Seddon is positively foaming at the mouth at the prospect of his first Mens Singles title, and Seddon's 22-year-old presence slightly detracts from Sweeny's youngish mystique. In the first game both players try to suss out each other's rhythms, Seddon managing to impose his aggressive attacking style as he take it 11-8. The second game sees Sweeny play some strong shots and force errors from Seddon, taking it 11-6 to level 1-1. The third game is Seddon all the way as he bites back hard racing into a 7-0 lead, eventually taking it 11-4. Seddon leads 2-1. In the fourth game Sweeny opens with a few great winners to lead 3-0; high quality from both players continue into one of the best ends of table tennis on the night, and it is a case of Seddon and Sweeny really forcing each other's errors as they relax and begin to increase their power, both playing excellent shots. The fifth and final is another excellent end of table tennis. Seddon comes out all guns blazing to get into an advantageous position of a 5-1 lead at change of ends. The point at 7-3 is wonderful with Sweeny beautifully blocking his way to win the point, and at 8-4 Sweeny makes a very impressive recovery forehand block to make it 8-5. Seddon really makes best use of his lead and with great retention of composure he takes the final end 11-5 to take an extremely well-deserved Mens Singles title. Umpired by Kevin Read.
Reece Seddon at 22 years of age may well be the youngest Burnham Mens Singles winner ever, since the inception of the Championships in 1967, and his route to the trophy was difficult having beaten fourth seed George Reeves in the Quarters, second seed Gary Young in the Semis, and finally eighth seed Charles Sweeny in the Final. As an aside, this also may very well be the first time that a player has won the Mixed Open Singles and Mens Singles titles in consecutive years.
Lee McHugh - Press & Publicity Officer - Burnham Table Tennis League