Paul Hainsworth (pictured) became the first player to win 4 consecutive Mark Kilby Hard bat titles after a straight game victory over fellow Lions player Phil Ogier in the final. The event is a fun tournament that serves as a welcome break from the season’s regular action and aims to put every player on a level playing field. This is done by old style hard ‘pimple’ bats being provided to all players for use throughout the tournament. The previous scoring system of 21 points is used in addition to the use of the 38mm ball as opposed to the current 40mm ball that is used for all local, national and international table tennis competition. The purpose of the tournament was to take away any advantages gained by any of the numerous rubbers available for use, which are now more varied within the modern game and also to create the opportunity for any player to win an Open tournament.
Mark Kilby was a talented young table tennis player who tragically died in the early 1980’s. Mark’s parents Barry and Val arranged to have his table tennis bat dipped in silver and mounted as the trophy for the winner of the tournament. They come down to the centre each year to watch the annual event and also present the trophy at the climax of the tournament. Significantly, Mark would have been 50 just 4 days before Wednesday evening’s tournament.
The event has historically been well supported by the Guernsey Table Tennis Association Members and this year was no different with a healthy entry of competitors relishing the opportunity of trying their hand with the hard bats.
24 year old Hainsworth made a slow start to the tournament and was made to work hard in his group matches against Maurice James, Keith Opie and Peter Vivian despite winning all in straight games. On an adjacent table, the 2010 finalist Jez Powell impressed as the winner of his group with 3 straight game wins of his own. Last year’s semi-finalist Liam Robilliard was another player thriving at the challenge and he came through as winner of his tough group which included high quality hard bat players Chas Elliott, last year’s losing finalist GTTA President Derek Webb and Rose Powell.
Ogier is the most decorated player in the history of this tournament and he has won the title a staggering 7 times. The evidence of his ability with the hard bat was clear as he breezed through his group at a canter against Andre Bichard, Sam King and Daisy Kershaw.
The 4 previously mentioned group winners were all starting to show some good form as they navigated their way to the semi-finals.
In the top half of the draw, Powell ran out a straight game winner over Ian Fitchet, a feat that was matched by Ogier during his win over St Pauls’ Elliott. The clash between the 2 Lions 1st division players was one of the closest contested matches of the knockout stages of the competition and contained some superb rallies. The match followed the classic hard bat format of attack v defence and Powell was frequently the aggressor, matched well by the top notch defensive skills of Ogier. Powell will rue missed opportunities in the opening leg, in which he led for the majority and held game points before narrowly losing out 22-20. Ogier’s determination to continually make Powell play one more shot proved decisive as he closed proceedings via a 21-17 triumph in the 2nd game.
Hainsworth’s momentum commenced in his Quarter final encounter with Bichard in which he took no prisoners, dropping just 11 points over the duration of the match. Robilliard was equally impressive against Peter Powell in the final Quarter as he too posted a straight game victory over the experienced veteran.
Robilliard showed some flashes of brilliance in his match with Hainsworth as he put away a lot of tricky smash winners from both wings, however Hainsworth’s consistent offensive game proved too much in the end and the final outcome was 2-0 in the elder player’s favour.
The final was a great spectacle for all in attendance and like Ogier’s clash with Powell, contained some brilliant rallies and shots due to the attack against defence structure in the majority of points. One such rally was contested in the opener when it looked like Ogier had caught Hainsworth out with a strong shot down the wide forehand. With Hainsworth flat footed on the other side of the table, it looked a certain winning stroke, however a miraculous diving type forehand stroke forced the error from Ogier whilst Hainsworth was on the floor.
Hainsworth’s attacking strokes were unrelenting as he continued to reel off points and his confidence was clear to see when towards the tail end of the 2nd he took a difficult backhand off the bounce for a smashed winner down the line.
Ogier never gives in and he continued to fight till the death, however on the night Hainsworth had too much firepower.