The Guernsey Table Tennis Association’s domestic season kicked off a few weeks back with the commencement of the Doric Insurance sponsored senior leagues. Monday evening however saw the first main Senior Open tournament take place, the Senior Group.
Lawrence Stacey had clinched this title for the first time last September with a hard fought 5 set win over twin Josh and he successfully defended his crown this time out with another win over Josh in the final, albeit this time more emphatically in straight sets.
The season opener proved a popular event as in excess of 30 entrants took part in the tournament which are being run in a slightly different format by a new committee following the departure of GTTA stalwart Ian Fitchet from the role. Fitchet had successfully run the raft of tournaments held by the GTTA over the past 20+ years to great effect and his presence in the role will be missed. The key difference is that the group stages for the majority of the straight Open tournaments are to be contested in groups of 3 players, which is a change from the traditional 4 which has been in place for some time.
The changed format had no difference on the progression of the seeded players however, as all 10 players progressed to the knockout stages. This was not however without the odd upset or close call along the way. 6th seed Matthew Casey was unexpectedly taken to the full 5 set distance by Division 3 player Steve Martin, but comfortably navigated the decider 11-4. A few tables down the final seeded player, 10th seed Kay Chivers, was ousted by the continually improving Nye Matthew in straight sets. She still qualified by virtue of her wins over Sam Clark ad Keith Opie however. This was the only group containing 4 players due to the odd number of entrants and matches were contested over the shorter best of 3 format.
Fast forward to the Last 16 stages and again the matches largely went with the expectations with the seeded players coming through. The big shock however came with Division 2 player Oscar Pearson’s superb 4 set win over Casey. The pick of the round was the match between 5th seed Ryan Bichard and 9th seed Andy Gill. Bichard was always in front of his left-handed opponent and battled through over the full 5 set distance. Bichard continued the momentum from his tussle with Gill during his Quarter final encounter with top seed Ben Foss. He took the opening game 11-8 and held a commanding 10-6 lead in the second. Foss though battled back well to pinch the second 12-10 before taking the third 11-7. The fourth end was a topsy-turvy affair which Bichard edged 18-16, however he ran out of steam and Foss rushed through the decider 11-1.
The other matches at this stage went as expected with seeds 2-4 in the form of Josh, Lawrence and Paul Hainsworth all coming through. Josh ended the dream run of Pearson in straight sets, whilst Lawrence overcame former Division 1 team-mate and 7th seed Ryan Gilson in straight sets. Hainsworth lost the opener to 8th seed Jez Powell in the remaining Quarter but won the next 3 to progress.
The semi finals were both fairly comfortable affairs in the end, with the twins putting in commanding performances. Their extra sharpness over Foss and Hainsworth was evident during the clashes, with the Lions players appearing to lack table time at this early stage of the season, due to not having competed over the summer. Josh had trailed the opening end against Hainsworth 6-3 but stormed through 11-6 before taking the other ends 11-7. Lawrence won the first 2 x ends 11-7 before Foss threatened a comeback when taking the third 11-8. Stacey though had too much on the night and played some good table tennis to win the 4th, also 11-7.
The final saw some truly exceptional rallies, however it was Lawrence that was narrowly edging more of them and in the end he held his nerve to close out a tight 3rd end, taking the title courtesy of an 11-7, 11-9, 16-14 result.