Ping Pong Championship
Post date: Feb 08, 2020 7:7:19 PM
Mick's Ping Pong Championship has a new name on the trophy this year as Josh Stacey continued his incredible start to 2020 with another tournament win. Stacey has already tasted victory in 3 very different events, namely the Channel Islands Top 12 and the Lions Novelty Doubles and on Saturday he added the ‘Ping Pong’ to his collection.
The tournament is played with blue sandpaper bats and is a popular new addition to the local table tennis calendar. In its previous guise, the winner qualified to take part in Barry Hearn’s World Championship of Ping Pong, held at the Alexander Palace in London and televised on Sky Sports. Unfortunately due to a shake-up in the event rules, the Channel Islands’ automatic qualification spot was removed in 2018, primarily due to the ever-increasing inclusion of high quality Chinese players into the event.
Sandpaper bats act as a leveller due to the fact that very little spin can be imparted on the ball and despite the loss of the qualification spot, Mick Ingrouille took up the organisation and has been instrumental in ensuring that it continue to be played in a similar format to the previous CI qualification event. In other variations to standard table tennis rules, if a game score reaches 10-10 then the next point wins the game. Also each player can nominate one ‘golden ball’ point per match, whereby if they win that next rally, they are awarded 2 points.
The tournament saw 24 players contesting the initial round robin group stages where 4 groups of 7 were in place. Four seeds were placed into each of these groups in the form of 2019 champion Dan Collenette, Paul Hainsworth, Josh Stacey and Chas Elliott. Seedings were determined largely on previous performances in the WCPP qualifier as well as the annual Mark J Kilby Memorial hard bat tournament, which is very similar to the sandpaper bats.
The top 3 seeds all progressed as expected from their groups, despite a few initial signs of rustiness, although Chas Elliott found the going a little tougher with a defeat to Lawrence Stacey and consequently ended up with a more difficult draw. Indeed there were some other impressive results as Division 4 regulars Oscar Pearson and Helen Barker also progressed from their groups after adapting to the nuances of the sandpaper bats quicker than many higher-ranked opponents.
In the round of 16, the results went as expected although Lawrence Stacey nearly had an early exit at the hands of Ravenscroft Panthers’ Richard Edwards. The quarter-finals brought two seeds together and it was Paul Hainsworth who used his steady style to good effect to overcome Chas Elliott with little fuss.
This created a mouthwatering line-up in the semi-finals and both matches went to the wire, with both last year’s finalists exiting at this point. Collenette had been noticeably improving as the morning wore on and was demonstrating the best attacking shots, but fell 11-9 in the 3rd end to Josh Stacey, while 2017 champion Hainsworth went down to Lawrence Stacey 11-8, 5-11, 11-7.
The consolation event was taking place at the same time and James Crocker can consider himself exceptionally unlucky not to come away with the award. With the final match against Sam Clark delicately poised at 1-1 and 10-10 it was a one-point shoot-out for the title. After a good rally, Clark hit the ball high over the net and as GTTS junior Crocker went to smash the winner, a ball flew into the court from an adjacent match table and a let was called. On the replayed point Clark sealed the point after an edgy rally.
As the last match of the day, the final of the main draw was played to a best of 5. A sizable crowd stayed on to watch the match and were not disappointed by a closely-matched and exciting spectacle. Despite being twins, the finalists had very different styles of play with Josh’s aggressive forehand hits being countered by Lawrence’s back of the court defensive game and some long and skillful rallies ensued.
Lawrence claimed the first game 11-9 before Josh hit back as he found some rhythm with his forehand to level the match. The 3rd game produced some of the finest rallies and Lawrence used his first golden ball but to no avail as he went down 11-9. In the 4th game, both players used a golden ball point consecutively and Lawrence enjoyed a good slice of fortune as his next shot hit the net and dribbled over, making it unplayable by his brother and used this to his advantage to force a deciding 5th game. It was at this point that the tempo of the match decreased somewhat, probably in part due to nerves, but mostly through tiredness due to the relentless and physically demanding rallies in both attack and defence. Josh Stacey found enough in reserve to come through and claim the title 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 10-11, 11-7.