Two trophies for Bicester's Christelle Rajapaksa
Ten Oxfordshire juniors and cadets took part in Lillington Free Church TTC’s graded tournament at St Nicholas Park Leisure Centre on Saturday, 12th May. It’s been a year or two since I last made this trip to Warwick: the park itself has lost none of its springtime beauty and the Leisure Centre itself has recently undergone an impressive multi-million pound refurbishment.
Not that the Sports Hall is in any way different and the tournaments rely, just the same, on the calm, sympathetic and efficient management of Jill Weaving and her team of supervisors.
It was a sunny day for most of our contingent, although Lewis Waddup was thwarted at the semi-final stage of both the junior and the Grade B singles. In common with many open tournaments, all the events are mixed, so that the girls have to battle it out with the boys. Pride of place, therefore, goes to Christelle Rajapaksa, who won both the Junior Consolation singles and the Grade C singles, a reward for the tremendous effort and commitment she has shown over the last six months. Here she scored a string of fine victories, surprising the boys with her fierce counter-hitting. She actually ended up taking on our own Ethan Morgan (Banbury) three times, losing to him in the junior group, but outgunning him in the Consolation final and in the latter stages of the Grade C event. There was some high quality stuff here, a testament to how much both these players have been improving.
Ethan Morgan and Christelle Rajapaksa, finalists in the Junior Consolation event
Newcomer Zain Ali, newly equipped with a balsa wood blade and long-pimpled rubber on the backhand, won 7/10 matches. He reached the quarter-finals of the Under 13s and got all the way to the final of Improvers’ Grade, losing both in his group and again in the final to Richard, a powerful young man from Birmingham (see presentation photo). That Zain has come so far in such a short time is a tribute to his speed, agility and intelligence.
Kidlington's Zain Ali (12) reached the final of Improvers
Our last trophy winner was Morris Wong (just 12), who probably won about the same number of matches as Zain, but both he and I lost count. He kept up his energy and concentration remarkably well to battle through a series of close matches in Beginners’ Grade, winning two of them at deuce in the 5th, but losing the final in straight games to a Lillington player. Morris has really seized his opportunity since being belatedly fished out of the lower coaching group at Kidlington: you can see how much he enjoys competing and I’ve been most impressed by the kindness he has shown to other players.
Morris Wong with his runner-up trophy
Ethan Morgan receives his runner-up trophy from organiser, Jill Weaving