Mark Kilby Hard Bat Tournament
Post date: May 19, 2021 11:41:19 PM
The close of the domestic winter league table tennis season culminates with the popular Mark J Kilby Memorial Hard Bat Trophy and this season closer was contested on Monday evening at the GTTA centre.
Paul Hainsworth has been a figure of dominance in this event over the past 12 years and his incredible run continued here courtesy of a straight sets win over first-time finalist Lawrence Stacey.
Due to the delayed end to the prior 2019/20 season, this event was re-scheduled to December 2020 meaning the event was being staged for the second time in just 5 months.
Hainsworth had picked up the title back in December and this recent triumph was his 11th overall crown and a new record of 6 consecutive titles, thus breaking the prior record of 5 also held by the Lions table tennis club President. The tournament is always fairly open due to the ‘level playing field’ nature of the competition which is largely as a result of every player using the same pimple bats throughout the evening, including a switch of bats between ends. Despite this fact, the players to reach the latter stages were indeed some of the higher ranked players to have entered the event.The tournament itself is a throwback to the olden days in that as well as the pimple bats being used, the previous scoring system of 21 points is used, but with a modern twist as each player only has 2 serves in place of the traditional 5 previously used for this scoring system. The other notable difference is that the old 38mm ball is used as opposed to the current 40mm ball that is used for all local, national and international table tennis competitions.Mark Kilby was a talented young table tennis player who tragically passed away 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 newly launched tournament when it was first contested in 1984. They come down to the centre each year to watch the annual event and also present the trophy at the climax of the tournament.
The tournament can throw up some unexpected results, however the initial group stages did not yield too many of these. The biggest surprise came in group E where Craig Dunning got the better of previous finalist and hard bat specialist Chas Elliott over the full 3 sets. Group A was a well contested group which saw finalist Stacey battle past Steve Ozanne in 3 sets. Ozanne himself had just edged past Ben Foote 21-18 in the deciding end of their tight encounter to ensure he had safe passage to the knockout stages.
4th seeded Division 1 player Andy Gill failed to win group D, however his defeat in 3 close sets came to Ken Falla, who is adept in this form of the game. Stacey battled back from 17-20 in the opening game against Gill in the Quarters to win 22-20 before comfortably taking the second 21-7, whilst Hainsworth won in straight sets against Elliott despite some excellent shots from the veteran, particularly off the backhand wing. Elliott’s return of 23 points was the most that the champion conceded in any of his matches on the night.3rd seed Ryan Bichard came through a well contested affair against Dunning in straight sets as did Ozanne against Falla, with the first set score of 22-20 proving crucial in that match.Ozanne’s strong run came to a halt in the semi final stages as he found Hainsworth too strong and went down for the loss of 14 points. On the adjacent table, Stacey and Bichard were embroiled in a classic hard bat encounter. Both players were playing some excellent shots with both playing a mixture of attacking and defensive strokes. Having taken the opener, Stacey looked in firm control when leading 17-13, however an incredible run of points saw Bichard leading 20-17. Stacey clawed it back to 20-20 before Bichard took the next 2 points to restore parity. Bichard maintained his momentum at the start of the deciding end due to leading during the early and middle stages, however Stacey fought well and turned the tables on the affair, winning through 21-15.
Stacey made a good start in the final and traded well with Hainsworth during the early stages This saw a number of lengthy rallies with excellent defensive retrievals from both players on top of strong attacking shots. Hainsworth’s relentless pressure told in the latter part of the game as it saw him comfortably to a 21-13 scoreline. Despite Stacey’s best efforts, Hainsworth’s consistency was too much on the night and he completed the victory courtesy of a 21-9 score in the second end.