Hayden, predictably, and Antonio Beckles, totally unpredictably, were
the stars of the preliminary rounds of the Braintree Table Tennis League
annual individual events.
Hayden’s successes were predictable in that as a six-times winner of
the men’s singles, he could have been expected to shine - but this time
there was a twist.
Because of a chronic wrist injury he has been playing this season with
an anti-loop bat, but for the annual event he decided to throw caution
to the wind and turned to his old bat, and his old action, pain or no
And even though he had not picked up that bat for a year, he quickly
showed he had not forgotten how to use it, making his way through to
the finals of the over 50s and the veterans’ singles, and then the crowning
moment, eliminating No.1 seed and holder Brandon Crouchman from the
In a classy fast-moving set, he triumphed 11-9, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7.
He earned his place in the veterans’ singles final the hard way, a win
at 12-10 in the fifth game over Adam Buxton.
In the final, to be held at the Earls Colne Recreation Centre on Friday
(starting at 7.15), he will face the holder Paul Davison, whose semi-final
win came over Ken Lewis after Victor Chan had put out No.3 seed Steve
In the over 50s’, Hayden overcame Lewis in the semi-final and will face
Pennell - a semi-final winner over his doubles partner Ian Whiteside
at 11-9 in the fifth game - on finals night.
In the men’s singles semi-final, Hayden will again face Buxton, the
No.4 seed, who reached the last four despite a defeat at the group stage
at the hands of his doubles partner Lee McHugh.
That meant he faced a tougher than expected last 16 meeting with equal
No.5 seed Andy Holmes.
Holmes gave him plenty of work to do before he emerged 11-9, 13-11,
10-12, 11-7 to face the surprise of the tournament Antonio Beckles,
a player with just seven wins out of 39 in the league but who discovered
some astounding form on the day to knock out No.3 seed Simon Webber,
who had lost only five of his 53 sets in the league – and in three straight
games 11-7, 12-10, 11-9.
Beckles had exceeded expectations even by getting out of his group where
he overcame Robin Armstrong and Mike Johnston, both of whom had beaten
him twice in the league.
His progress was halted by Buxton at the quarter-final stage but even
then he put up a tremendous fight, losing only 12-10, 11-13, 11-8, 11-8.
McHugh, Buxton’s group conqueror, made his way through to the other
semi-final with wins in straight games over Lewis and Alistair Hill,
a surprise winner over equal five seed John Andrews at 13-11 in the
He will face five-times winner Paul Davison, who dropped only one game
– to Pennell - in his five outings to reach that stage.
The men’s doubles threw up another surprise as the unseeded pair Andrews
and Keith Martin made their way through to the final with a win over
the 2015 finalists Pennell and Whiteside 11-2, 11-3, 11-6 and No.2 seeds
Buxton and McHugh 11-3, 11-13, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5.
They will face top seeds Crouchman and Webber, who put their singles
defeats behind them to come past Lewis and Dean Andrews, but not without
some alarms in their 10-12, 11-9, 13-11, 11-9 win.
Other events on finals night will be the restricted singles between
the holder Ken Lewis and 2015 winner Steve Noble, the division one singles
between McHugh and Whiteside, the division two singles between Garry
Fryatt and Kelly Yuenyongpknan, and for the first time for seven years,
a ladies’ singles between Yuenyongpknan and Hannah Pitt, and mixed doubles,
Yuenyongpknan and Andy Holmes against Pitt and Crouchman.
Zara Darcy Willis was a double winner in the junior events.
Runner-up for the past two years, 13-year-old Darcy Willis finally got
her hands on the junior girls’ trophy with a victory in the final over
the holder Mia Charles 11-6, 13-11, 11-8.
She also took the cadet girls’ singles, beating Charles in the semi-final
this time before beating Melinda Abraham-Victor 11-9, 12-10, 11-4 in
The boys’ events were shared between Jonny Evans and Elliott Game.
Game won the junior singles with an 11-6, 12-10, 14-12 win over Evans
in the final, but in the cadets’ event, Evans knocked out Game in the
semi-final before beating James Donald 12-14, 11-8, 11-3, 11-6 in the
Evans and Game then teamed up to win the junior doubles with a final
victory over Charles and Darcy Willis 11-4, 11-8, 11-7.
The under 11 event was played as a round robin and was won by Malachi
O’Leary, who dropped only one game in beating the other three contenders.
Alexia Mullane, who stretched O’Leary to 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, won
her other two singles to finish runner-up.
In other events played to a conclusion before finals night, James Hicks
took the handicap singles with a win in the final over Lee McHugh 21-19,
21-13 after McHugh had narrowly squeezed past the holder Takunda Nerutanga
in the semi-final 11-21, 22-20, 22-20.
The handicap doubles was won by Antonio Beckles and Stewart Ireland,
two players new to the league this season, with a 21-16 victory in the
single-game final over Tim Huxtable and Ken Lewis.
The hard bat singles, reintroduced after a 15-year absence, was won
by Andy Holmes with a victory in the final over Ryan Pitt.
The most promising boy award went to Harrison Daniels and the most promising
girl to Alexia Mullane.
The event was organised by league competition secretary Keith Martin
and refereed with his usual efficiency by Arthur Clark.