On Thursday 25th January 2018, history was made. Toby Ellis, aged 12 became the youngest ever winner of a wide open and extremely competitive Preston Premier Division Singles competition beating Paul Robinson 3:0 in the final with a mature controlled display well beyond his years.
Toby has already been described by Jim Clegg, a man with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in developing young table tennis talent both in the North West and England, as the best talent he has seen in 40 years - dating back to Donald Parker who became the youngest male player to represent England. Toby defeated Jacobaeus team mate John Porter in his semi final whilst Paul Robinson (Astra A) went one better than last year when he defeated Martin Ireland (Garstang A) 3:0 in his semi final.
In the Division One competition which took place on Wednesday 24th January, Manoj Parekh - undefeated in league matches this season - justified his favourite status by beating Astra B team mate Matt Howarth 11-9 11-8 6-11 11-6 in the final. Ironically Matt was the defending Premier Singles Champion from 2017 but was unable to defend that crown after Astra B had been relegated from the Premier Division at the end of the 2016/17 season - an indication of just how strong in depth the Premier Division now is. Earlier in the night, Manoj had come through a tough group of Phil Robinson (Astra C), Yu Zhou (Ashton Meths C) and Bryan Walker (Gryf B) dropping only 1 end to Phil Robinson. In the knockout stages, Manoj defeated up and coming Ogi Kostov (Astra D, and winner of the 2017 Division 2 Singles Champion) before beating George Walmsley (Jacobaeus B) for the second time in a week. It was a calm, controlled and focused nights work by Manoj. Matt progressed from a group including Nigel Fewster (Chorley), Sadiq Asmal (Riverside C) and Andrew White (Jacobaeus B) before beating Joe Houghton (Gryf C) in straight sets in his semi final. Earlier Joe, having an excellent first season in Division 1 had qualified from a very evenly matched group in which the majority of matches went to a deciding 5th end.
The Division Two competition also went to form where Thomas Cummins (Ribbleton A) and also undefeated this season, managed the pressure of being favourite by beating Paul Carter (Riverside F) in a terrific nervy ding dong battle.
Thomas won the first end 11-4 and looked to be set for a comfortable win but Paul was having nothing of it, Paul taking the second end 11-6. Back came Thomas taking the third as Paul dropped back playing an unusually defensive game for him. Back came Paul in a hard fought fourth as he managed to get his aggressive top spin forehand working, winning 12-10. A good number of players had stayed to watch this final which was great to see and the consensus was that Paul was on top. For some reason though, Paul stopped attacking and dropped back again. As he did so, Thomas's powerful forehand was unleashed again and he ran away with the decider winning comfortably 11-4. An excellent debut for Thomas and well deserved. For Paul, despite defeat, it was fantastic to see him back playing and competing after a serious illness. Whilst the final was competed for by the older generation - I hope Thomas and Paul don't mind me saying that! - as usual there was a large contingent of youth taking part in this competition. In Paul's semi-final, he defeated 10 year old Bethany Ellis (Preston Colts) and sister of Toby Ellis. Bethany is the reigning England Girls under 10 National Champion and had done brilliantly to win all her matches in a tough competitive group of Andy Hindle (Ribbleton A), Jimmy Clayton (Ashton Meths E) and David Hogg (BAE B). The match between Andy Hindle and David Hogg was what some considered to be the match of the night with Andy Hindle winning in 5 entertaining ends. Thomas Cummins had earlier qualified comfortably from his group before beating the consistent Liam McDermott (Astra E) in his semi final 3:0.
Taking place over 3 nights, 64 players from our league took part in these events. Each event started at 19:15 and typically finished around 22:00. A big thank you to all these players for supporting our league and especially to the event organisers Tony Rigby and Andrew White, and event helpers on the night - Geoff Pickles and Tony Kendal.
If you are interested in taking part in an individual event organised by our league, your next chance will come when our Preston Closed Championships take place in March. Watch out for further details to follow on dates, times, cost and how to enter.
If you want to know more about the history of these events, check out our Honours Board found at the top of our website.
Thanks to Tony Rigby and Tony Kendal for providing the photos.