West Lothian Closed

Closed Championships Reports

 

Bellway Homes West Lothian Closed Championships

Season 2017/18 Champion(s) Runner(s) Up
Open Singles Dariusz Szymczak Lewis Hills
Ladies Singles Holly Stephen Ros Beck
Open Doubles D Szymczak & L Kaska A Honeyman & S Gibson
Juniors Jamie Toner Holly Stephen
Consolation Barrie Hills Holly Stephen
Ballot Doubles L Hills & S Gibson A Honeyman & J Toner
Ping Pong John McLead Barrie Hills
Primary Schools Jamie Toner Michael Fanning
Handicap Josef Tur Martin Rumsay
Single Point Jamie Toner Martin Rumsay

Introduction

As in recent seasons the various competitions were held over two sessions. The first was held as a fun night just prior to Christmas and included the handicap, ping pong and single point events before sharing some festive pizza. It was intended that the more serious events would be held late April but had to be delayed until late May because the date then clashed with a re-scheduled date for the national championships. While this led to a downturn in the usual participation levels the quality of competition was maintained. Whether the club would make the same decision in similar circumstances in future is debatable.

Winners will be formally presented with their trophies at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting and this year the club has renewed its stock of trophies. Taking pride of place will be a ‘Bellway Homes Trophy’ for the winner of the Open Singles and a ‘Drew McLaren Memorial Trophy’ for the new junior champion.

Open Singles (Bellway Homes Trophy)

All seeds made their way from the groups to the quarter finals unscathed but there was almost one upset when Holly Stephen lost out in five sets to Steve Collins after holding two match points. In the quarters Szymczak, Kaska and Hills took their allotted places in the semis with reasonable ease but Andy Honeyman lost out to Stuart Gibson.

This proved to be Stuart’s watershed moment as he then lost quite meekly to Szymczak in the first semi. The other semi, though, was a repeat of last season’s and provided the day’s controversy. It revolved around an edge/side decision in the third set when the game was evenly poised at one set each. Once the dispute was resolved Hills seemed to lose some focus and, therefore, the third set. However, he came back strongly to win the next two to gain a place in the final just as he did last season.

In the final Hills found Szymczak an entirely different proposition. After going two sets down he found some momentum and form to take a 9-4 lead on his own service. At this point Szymczak did what is known in the club as ‘doing a Dariusz’ to take the game to deuce before winning in straight sets and taking the title for a record fifth time.

Ladies Singles

This might have been a repeat of last year’s final but the result was reversed when Holly Stephen defeated Ros Beck in four sets. Holly took a two set lead before Ros fought back in the third set taking it at deuce. Holly then did likewise in the fourth set to regain her Ladies title 11-5, 11-9, 10-12, 12-10.

Open Doubles

Of all the competitions the outcome of this one was in the least doubt. So it was that reigning champions Szymczak & Kaska strolled their way into the final. However, the competition was not without some tight ties as the semi between second seeds Hills & Collins and Honeyman & Gibson proved. In an exciting and dramatic encounter Honeyman & Gibson won through in five sets. In the final, though, they found the champions a step too far.

Juniors (Drew McLaren Memorial Trophy)

Of all the tournaments held this one provided the surprise result. In the semi finals No 1 seed Holly Stephen accounted for David McRae in straight sets while Jamie Toner ended Michael Fanning’s hopes in similar fashion. After her strong performances in the open singles Holly looked unusually lethargic in the final. After taking the first set young Jamie used his dogged style to frustrate Holly who insisted on attacking too soon to take his first junior title in four sets.

Primary Schools

As the main events progressed into their latter stages a group of primary aged players competed in a round robin competition which was won by Jamie Toner and Michael Fanning took the runner up spot.

Consolation

In one semi final David McRae faced his grandfather, Barrie Hills, with a number of family members watching from the bleachers, not knowing who to support. As it happened, granddad Barrie won with some ease. The other semi found Holly Stephen taking on Martin Rumsay in what proved to be a five set thriller. Holly eventually took her place in the final after winning the last two sets.

After that exciting encounter the final proved a bit of a disappointment with Barrie’s frustrating defensive play earning him the title in straight sets.

Ballot Doubles

When draw sheets are first displayed it’s usually the ballot doubles that most participants gravitate towards to find out who the fickle hand of fate has paired them with. Making their way to the semi finals were four interesting partnerships viz. Collins/Toner senior, A Honeyman/Toner junior, Gibson/Hills junior and Kaska/Lander senior.

The battle of the Toners proved a ‘battle royale’ in which Toner junior put his pocket money at risk by winning 15-13 in the deciding set. Gibson & Hills had an easier ride although it did take four sets. In the final Gibson & Hills proved the more dominant partnership.

Ping Pong

Of all the competitions this one is usually the most difficult to predict with only one player having won more than once. This year proved no different as it produced yet another first time champion in John McLeod who had only just returned to action after a long injury break. Barrie Hills would have started as favourite in the final given respective experience and playing styles but was outplayed.

 


 

 

Season 2015/16 Champion(s) Runner(s) Up
Open Singles Dariusz Szymczak Stan Stoodley
Ladies Singles Holly Stephen Ros Beck
Open Doubles Szymczak & Kaska L Hills & Arnott
Juniors Jamie Arnott Holly Stephen
Consolation Holly Stephen Szymon Pawlik
Ballot Doubles Kaska & Wilk Arnott & Hastings
Ping Pong Lewis Hills Amjad Mohammed
Primary Schools Holly Stephen Jamie Toner

 

Open Singles

Unfortunately numbers were down a little this year but this was easily explained by the fact that the competition was held over a Bank Holiday weekend. That said it is difficult to imagine that a larger entry would have made much of a difference to the role of honour.

 

In the Open Singles event the seeded players all qualified for the quarter finals without any mishap. Three of the four top seeds made it through to the semis but No 4 seed Lewis Hills succumbed to Jamie Arnott

 

There Dariusz Szymczak had a surprisingly comfortable straight sets win over Jamie 11-5, 11-6, 11-7. The second semi where No 2 seed Lukasz Kaska met No 3 seed Stan Stoodley was a much tighter affair. Stan took the sting out of the pace to take the first set, Lukasz played much more cautiously to take the second, Stan came back to take the third as did Lukasz to take the fourth. So to the deciding set where Stan saved match points, Lukasz looked nervous until eventually Stan edged it 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 13-11.

 

The drama continued into the final as the reigning champion Szymczak measured up to his predecessor Stoodley. The first set went to Szymczak, not to be outdone Stoodley took the next two before Szymczak evened the score. In the deciding end Stoodley got off to a flyer, changed ends up 5-1 before easing to a 9-5 lead. Those watching must have asked themselves what could possibly go wrong and were quickly answered – anything that possibly could! As a result Szymczak took his third title 11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9.

 

Despite the circumstances both players accepted the outcome in a sporting fashion and with good grace.

 

Ladies Singles

Again, there were no surprises in the Ladies singles where young Holly Stephen retained her title with a straight sets victory over former champion Ros Beck, winning 11-6, 11-7, 11-4. Rather sitting on her laurels this result just whetted her appetite for even more success.

 

Open Doubles

Given the numbers, the competition was designed to provide a final group of three partnerships and all three top seeded couples duly qualified. As reigning champions Szymczak & Kaska were always favourites and so it proved with straight set victories over the other two. In the fight for the runner up spot Hills & Arnott just pipped a spirited Stoodley & Mohammed 12-10, 11-8, 11-13, 10-12, 11-9.

 

Juniors

Prior to this year’s event the most successful junior was Kieran Boyle with three wins but by the end of the day Jamie Arnott had equalled this record. In the final he met Holly Stephen who did not go down without a fight, taking the first set before Jamie upped the pressure and the power play to win 5-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-9.

 

Consolation

All those not qualifying from the Open Singles groups made their way into this event with those just missing out from qualifying made seeds. By the time the competition reached the semi finals these four top seeds had made their way through. In the first Szymon Szymczak scraped through in five deuce sets against Drew McLaren and in the second Holly Stephen bossed her big brother Calum. In the final Holly totally outhit her higher rated opponent when winning 11-8, 11-9, 11-5.

 

Ballot Doubles

As always, some interesting partnerships, not least was the pairing of champion Szymczak with the tournament’s youngest competitor Jamie Toner. The final was fought between two partnerships comprising both youth and experience but proved to be more one sided than anticipated. Stan Stoodley & Holly Stephen beat Steve Hastings & Jamie Arnott 11-5,11-7 in a time constrained best of three set final.

 

Ping Pong

For most this was the first opportunity to use these simple bats since the previous contest. Making their way to the final were Lewis Hills and Amjad Mohammed with the former becoming the first to become a two times champion when winning 15-8,15-11 in a surprisingly open contest.

 

Primary Schools

As reigning Scottish Primary School champion, Holly Stephen was always favourite to retain her title and so it proved. However, young Jamie Toner playing in his first competition showed up well in the final and it was a joy to witness the smile on his face as he gave of his best.


 

Season 2014/15 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Dariusz Szymczak Lukasz Kaska
Ladies Singles Holly Stephen Ros Beck
Open Doubles Szymczak & Kaska Hunter & Arnott
Juniors Jamie Arnott Calum Stephen
Consolation Nathan Lander Holly Stephen
Ballot Doubles Kaska & Wilk Fletcher & Motherwell
Ping Pong Brian Hunter Ronnie Motherwell
Primary Schools Holly Stephen Andrew Davies

 The Open Singles event started as usual with eight groups where the top two progressed with all others transferred to the consolation event. In the last sixteen the competition stepped up a pace seeds were put under pressure and none more so than Dave Fletcher. Against Drew McLaren he lost the first two sets, recovered to take the next two but then lost the deciding set.

In the quarter finals top seeds Lukasz Kaska and Dariusz Szymczak made short work of Calum Stephen and Drew McLaren respectively. Reigning champion and number three seed Stan Stoodley then lost in three straight hard fought sets to Russell Swan. Following on from this surprise result Jamie Arnott almost added the scalp of number four seed Brian Hunter after taking a two sets to one lead, eventually going down 5-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 11-6.

Kaska and Szymczak then both accounted for Hunter and Swan respectively with the Kaska/Hunter encounter looking like a real bruising match. The all Polish final proved an exciting affair where neither player gave his friend an inch. Kaska won the first two sets and looked odds on favourite to take his maiden title but Szymczak had other ideas. At last he was able to meet Kaska’s raw power with some finesse. By taking the last three sets he became only the second player to win this title for a second time.

The final of the ladies event pitted Holly Stephen against two times champion Ros Beck. Ros put her young opponent on the back foot when she took the first set but young Holly then pulled herself together to win the next three sets with some ease to earn her first title. This will surely be the first of many.

The format of the junior event took a slightly different format in that the winners of two groups moved into the semi finals to meet the top two seeds. Accordingly, two members of the Scotland Primary School girls team moved into the semis. There, they both lost out – Holly Stephen to Jamie Arnott and Amelia Norbury to Calum Stephen. The re-run of last year’s final provided the same result when Jamie Arnott took his second title.

The early rounds of the doubles went as expected. Kaska & Szymczak accounted for Stephen & Swift, Hunter & Arnott did likewise with Mariusz Wilk & Szymon Pawlik while Swan & Mohammed beat Brian Toal & McLaren. Fourth seeds Stoodley & Fletcher were taken all the way by the unseeded pairing of Ronnie Motherwell & Kevin Milne in an encounter which seesawed throughout.

In the semi finals Kaska & Szymczak were convincing winners against Swan & Mohammed while the Stoodley/Fletcher duo became involved in yet another five set thriller but this time going down to Hunter & Arnott. In the final Kaska & Szymczak proved worthy winners.

The final stages of the Consolation event comprised a three player group of Nathan Lander, Dave Stephen and his daughter Holly. By beating both his rivals Nathan Lander achieved his first title.

The ballot doubles competition proved as enjoyable and competitive as ever. The eventual winners Kaska & Wilk had an easy ride against Hunter & Toal in the first semi final. The second semi, though, proved much more competitive with Fletcher & Motherwell coming back from a two sets to one deficit to make the final.

The primary school event culminated in a final between Holly Stephen and Andrew Davies with Holly proving a worthy victor against a much more inexperienced opponent.

As of yet no one has won two Ping Pong titles and, again, there was a new winner. This time it was Brian Hunter who accounted for Ronnie Motherwell in the final.

 


 

Season 2013/14 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Stan Stoodley Matt Meecham
Ladies Singles Ros Beck Holly Stephen
Open Doubles Szymczak & Kaska Stoodley & McCulloch
Juniors Jamie Arnott Calum Stephen
Consolation Martin Rumsay Szymon Pawlik
Ballot Doubles Szymczak & Pawlik Kaska & Mohammed
Ping Pong Dave Fletcher Calum Stephen

 

In the Open Singles event all eight top seeds made their way into the quarter finals save for John McCulloch who dropped out feeling unwell. Here top junior Jamie Arnott pulled off the first shock of the tournament when he accounted for Number 2 seed Lukasz Kaska in five sets. Kaska had looked to be coasting when he took a two set lead but young Arnott gradually got used to and then overcame Kaska’s pace and power to move into the semis.

 

In the other quarter final ties Number 1 seed Dariusz Szymczak gained revenge for last year’s loss to Kevin Milne, to move effortlessly into the semis. He was accompanied by Matt Meecham who beat Barrie Hills in straight sets and Stan Stoodley who accounted for Russell Swan in four sets.

 

In the first semi final Szymczak surprisingly lost out in four sets to Meecham whose powerful topspin drives from both wings proved the difference. At this point Arnott again showed up well but found the wily Stoodley a step too far although this match also went to four sets.

 

In the final Number 3 seed Stoodley added his first West Lothian title to his recently won Edinburgh League title when beating Number 4 seed Meecham. Although hard fought, Stoodley looked in command from the outset.

 

In the doubles only three of the top seeds arrived as expected in the semi finals. Title favourites Szymczak and Kaska beat outsiders Milne and Keith MacKay to make it to the final. However, the other semi final between Stoodley & McCulloch and holders Russell Swan & Amjad Mohammed proved much more dramatic. In an encounter which swayed one way and then the other Stoodley & McCulloch were eventually the winners in a five set thriller.

 

The final, however, was a step too far as the singles top two seeds Szymczak & Kaska made up for their earlier disappointments.

 

In the Ladies event Ros Beck regained her title when she defeated primary school pupil Holly Stephen. Pick of the games, though, was Holly’s encounter with former champion Liz Henry where the youngster traded blows with her more mature opponent and generally outgunned her.

 

The junior competition usually provides a highlight and this year was no different. Last year’s losing finalist Arnott came up trumps this time by beating Calum Stephen in the final. The more experienced Arnott was always favourite but Stephen gave him a run for his money and at times his hitting power was awesome.

 

The draw for the ballot doubles threw up two top partnerships in Szymczak & Szymon Pawlik and Kaska & Mohammed and as luck would have it they met in the final. After two sets they were even but after that the formers pulled away.

 

Those who did not make it through the original groups qualified for a separate Consolation competition where the final was as hard fought out as any. In the final analysis Martin Rumsay regained the title he last won a couple of years ago when he beat Pawlik 11-9 in the deciding set.

 

One event contested for the first time was the Ping Pong for which the West Lothian winner qualifies for the Scottish Nationals and the winner there goes forward to the annual televised World Championships. Bats comprise a thin wooden framework and are covered with sandpaper. Anyone who thought that the older competitors would have a distinct advantage was wrong as two juniors, Declan Gibson and Calum Stephen, caught the eye.

 

Biggest surprise was the club’s newest member Gibson taking the scalp of no less a figure than the open champion to make it to the latter stages. Stephen made it to the final where he was eventually stopped by Dave Fletcher who qualified as of right for the National Championships.

Season 2012/13 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Laura Walker Kevin Milne
Ladies Singles Laura Walker Liz Henry
Open Doubles Mohammed & Swan Szymczak & Kaska
Juniors Kieran Boyle Aaron Cameron
Consolation George Anderson John Swift
Ballot Doubles Kaska & Stewart Mohammed & Swan
Ping Pong Lukasz Kaska Russell Swan

 

Open Singles

The opens singles started with eight groups competing on a round robin basis with the top two qualifying for the knockout stages and the others being transferred to the consolation event. Even from these early stages there were signs that this event was not going to take a few twists and turns on the way.

 

Group 1 – Dariusz Szymczak and Russell Swan qualified but in their individual encounter Szymczak came back from losing the first set to win. Nathan Lander qualified as a seed in the Consolations.

Group 2 – the key match between John McCulloch and Andy Wyles ended in a win for Wyles. After three games McCulloch led by two sets to one but Wyles came back to win 12-10 in the deciding set. Jim Stewart took a game off both and qualified as a seed in the Consolations.

Group 3 – Kevin Milne headed the group with such consummate ease that his performance will have provided a portent of things to come. Dave Fletcher also qualified while Mariusz Wilk goes forward to the Consolations as a seed.

Group 4

Group 5

Group 6

Group 7

Group 8

 

The groups went as expected with the exception of John Swift dropping to the consolations and John McCulloch taking second spot to Andy Wyles although having a two set to one lead. In the last sixteen McCulloch again lost in the deciding set from a 2-1 lead, this time to Laura Walker, former Scottish champion. The other top seed to drop out at this stage was Lukasz Kaska who was unable to overpower the defence of Barrie Hills.

 

In the quarters Walker beat number two seed and former champion Lewis Hills and another former champion Robbie Fairley succumbed to a pumped up Kevin Milne. In both instances it was the comprehensive nature of the wins that particularly surprised. Top junior Kieran Boyle proved too quick for Hills and reigning champion Dariusz Szymczak took care of Wyles with some ease.

 

The semi finals pitted Szymczak against Milne and Walker with Boyle. Despite the fact that Szymczak was the odds on title favourite he found great difficulty with Milne’s idiosyncratic style to go down in four sets. Walker then used her greater experience to beat a too defensive Boyle in straight sets. This put the doubles partners in direct opposition in the final.

 

On balance Milne might have looked to be favourite given his more difficult passage to the final but Walker had other ideas. She got her game plan right by playing in a very measured fashion, mixing spin, pace and direction to keep her opponent on the back foot. In a tactical battle Walker won in four sets for her maiden open title.

 

As expected, and despite the fact that there were two former champions in the womens event, this title also went the way of former Scottish champion Laura Walker for an unprecedented record. Pick of the games in this event was the semi final between reigning champion Liz Henry against the precocious 9 year old Holly Stephen who, despite putting up a spirited display, went down to her more experienced opponent.

 

It was the doubles competition where the contest was most open with a large number of quality partnerships. Among the pairings were the singles finalists but the pre tournament favourites were Szymczak and Kaska. Having beaten the reigning champions Barrie and Lewis Hills in the semi final they then went down to Mohammed and Swan who they had beaten earlier in the groups. In their semi final the eventual winners had even found themselves two match points down to last year’s beaten finalists McCulloch and Wyles before pulling through.

 

Juniors

As usual, the junior event showcased the best of local young talent but last year’s beaten finalist young Jamie Arnott was absent because he was competing elsewhere. This left the way open to Aaron Cameron to go one better than last year by making the final against the holder Kieran Boyle where they provided the most exciting and entertaining match of the day. However, it was Boyle who retained his title in a very closely matched encounter.

 

Consolations

In the consolation event George Anderson proved himself to be the “best of the rest” in beating John Swift in the final. In the semis they accounted for Mariusz Wilk and Martin Rumsay respectively.

 

Ballot Doubles

The ballot doubles is intended to add bit of fun to a competitive event by allocating doubles partnerships by drawing lots. As chance would have it the doubles champions Mohammed and Swan were drawn together but they were unable to take the title against a field of scratch pairings. They were beaten by Aaron Cameron and Szymon Pawlik who went on to contest the final. There they lost to Lukasz Kaska and Jim Stewart but took them to a deciding set.

 

Hard Bat

The final competition turned the clock back by playing with the hard bat equipment used in what has become to be known as wiff waff . However, such was the demanding nature of the day that there was no time for the final but when it was played mid week Kaska beat Swan to take the title.

Season 2011/12 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Dariusz Szymczak John McCulloch
Ladies Singles Liz Henry Rachel Milne
Open Doubles Hills & Hills McCulloch & Wyles
Juniors Kieran Boyle Jamie Arnott
Consolation Szymon Pawlik Kevin Milne
Ballot Doubles Szymczak & Hagenbuch
Hard Bat Lewis Hills Kevin Milne

In the senior Open event Dariusz Szymczak joined previous winners John McCulloch, Lewis Hills and Robbie Fairley in the Role of Honour. Early rounds were played in groups with two from each group qualifying for the last sixteen. Thereafter the competition was straight knockout. From there seven of the eight top seeds moved into the last eight. Only Drew McLaren of the top seeds lost out to the promising young Jamie Arnott.

 

In the first of quarter finals Szymczak accounted for Kevin Milne but the other three provided some drama. Firstly, the number two seed Lewis Hills unexpectedly lost to a fired up Andy Wyles and then young Arnott took the scalp of the experienced Keith MacKay. However, it was the encounter between McCulloch and Kieran Boyle which provided the competition’s first drama.

 

Boyle took the first set, McCulloch the second and Boyle the third. McCulloch fought back to even the score at two sets all but looked to have shot his bolt when he found himself staring defeat in the face at 4-8 down in the deciding set. However, aided by a couple of fortunate net trips he managed to gradually reduce the deficit to win 11-9.

 

Unfortunately, both semi finals and the final were unable to match the excitement and drama of the previous rounds. In the first semi Szymczak proved a step too far for Wyles while, in the second semi, McCulloch put all his experience to work to reduce any point winning opportunities for the exuberant Arnott. In the final Szymczak overpowered his more senior opponent to take his first singles title in style.

 

The womens event, quite unusually, proved a feisty and competitive affair in which reigning champion Ros Beck dropped back to bronze medal position behind Rachel Milne and new champion Liz Henry who added to her Scottish Police title.

 

The open doubles were played in four groups with the winner from each group qualifying for a place in the semi finals. Number one seeds Szymczak and Kieran Boyle progressed with ease to meet a new combination in McCulloch and Wyles, who had flattered to deceive in topping their group. The other semi pitted the father/son duo of Barrie/Lewis Hills against another new partnership in Milne and Drew McLaren.

 

At this point McCulloch and Wyles raised a few eyebrows when they came good to record a straight sets victory over the odds on favourites and title holders. Simultaneously, the recognised Hills partnership overcame Milne and McLaren. In the final McCulloch and Wyles again struggled and the much steadier Hills pairing took full advantage to take the title in four sets.

 

The semi finals of the juniors were contested by Boyle, Arnott, Aaron Cameron and Andrew Fischbacher who all qualified from the groups. The first of these pitted the relatively inexperienced Fischbacher against last year’s runner up Boyle but Boyle proved a comfortable winner. The second was between Arnott and Cameron where the general view was that the result could go either way. Both lads went at it hammer and tongs but it was Arnott’s greater consistency which took him to the final.

 

The contest between Boyle and Arnott proved to be the most entertaining and exciting match of the day. At the start Arnott attacked vigorously while Boyle counter hit or defended from the back of the court. After three sets Arnott led two to one and looked a strong favourite for the title but Boyle had other ideas. Showing a greater sense of purpose he gradually fought back to even the score before taking the deciding set with some comfort.

 

The consolation event was won by Szymon Pawlik in a closely fought contest with Kevin Boyle and Mariusz Wilk in silver and bronze positions respectively. On this occasion the group system provided a final group of three and on another day the result could quite easily be reversed. That’s how close it was.

 

The success of the county’s Polish contingent was added to when Szymczak combined with Peter Hagenbuch to win the ballot doubles. As a partnership they relied heavily on Szymczak’s power play but the unsung Hagenbuch played his part with some steady, if unspectacular, returns.

 

The final of the hard bat competition provided yet another high quality, exciting encounter between Lewis Hills and Milne with Hills wresting the title from the holder. It never ceases to amaze how the younger generation love to turn the clock to bygone days when table tennis was a more cat and mouse encounter rather than the modern powerful hitting encounters.

 

It is a sign of progress when any competition welcomes new and exciting talents and by the end of the day all the major titles had changed hands and, coincidentally, all were won by first time winners. Le “roi est mort, vive le roi”!

Season 2010/11 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Robbie Fairley Dariusz Szymczak
Ladies Singles Ros Beck Liz Henry
Open Doubles Szymczak & Kieran Boyle McLaren & Fairley
Juniors Robbie Fairley Kieran Boyle
Consolation Keith MacKay Jim Stewart
Ballot Doubles Szymczak & Swift McCulloch & Szymczak

 

The first disappointment of the day was the non appearance of George Flanagan, the number four seed and holder of the doubles title over the past two years with his partner John McCulloch, which skewed the Tournament Referee’s draw. The second involved the playing conditions at Bathgate Academy where the competitors were subjected to an extremely unhealthy sauna-like environment because the heating system could not be turned off.

 

The early stages of the open competition was played in four large groups on a round robin basis with the top two players being allowed a place in the quarter finals where subsequent games were played on a straight knock out basis. As with most competitions run on a group basis in the early stages there was one group dubbed the “group of death” because of an over allocation of top players.

 

In this instance the first group comprised double champion and number one seed Lewis Hills and former champion John McCulloch along with a number of other top players including Andy Wyles and Drew McLaren who would both feature large in other events. However, by the last round of games Hills and McCulloch remained undefeated but both had great difficulty in getting past their less highly ranked opponents. At this point McCulloch then surprised Hills by winning in straight sets to take the number one seed place in the quarter final draw.

 

If anything the next group was even more competitive with most games going the distance and, again, the number two seed, Scotland ranked junior Robbie Fairley, being beaten by Kevin Milne after taking the first set but with both eventually going forward. In this encounter it was the tactics which Milne’s employed that won the day. However, within this group were opponents of the stature of Keith MacKay, John Swift and Aaron Cameron who made these two fight all the way.

 

The next group was more straightforward with the two seeded players Dariusz Szymczak and Kieran Boyle qualifying without the loss of a set with Jim Stewart proving to be the best of the rest.

 

In the final group Barrie Hills, the Scotland over 70 champion, qualified without any difficulty but in the absence of George Flanagan there was a scramble for the last quarter final place. In the end it was Iain Henry who won the day, beating wife Liz on the way. As one wag commented “no tea for him tonight”.

 

After so much group drama the quarter finals were a bit of an anti climax with all but one won in straight sets and the other going to four sets. This round proved a step too far for McCulloch who fell to the much younger Fairley. Szymczak took care of the unseeded Henry while Lewis Hills returned to form to beat Milne. Yet another junior, Kieran Boyle accounted for Barrie Hills in the only four-setter. If anything, this was the only quarter final result to raise eyebrows but Boyle’s victory only underlined his recent run of form.

 

In the semi finals the pace cranked up yet another notch with the battle of the two juniors, Fairley and Boyle, and a tight tussle between Szymczak and Hills. In the first encounter Fairley made his greater maturity and experience pay against his younger, lively opponent Boyle in winning 11-6,11-9,10-12,11-7 in the battle of the juniors – one which was to be repeated later in the day. In the other semi Szymczak looked the more powerful and mobile against the reigning champion Hills in winning 11-8, 11-6, 13-15, 11-4.

 

The final between Fairley and Szymczak proved a treat to watch with both players providing some top class rallies. In taking the first two sets with unexpected ease Fairley looked to take his first senior title in straight sets but Szymczak showed great character to up his game to win the next two sets. With the destination of the title very finely balanced the match swung one way then the other before Fairley earned a hard fought victory 11-4, 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9.

 

In the inaugural ladies championships the final was fought between Ros Beck and Liz Henry. This was a battle between an attacking Henry against a defensive Beck in which the attacker found difficulty in putting away all the opportunities which came her way. Although Beck won in straight sets it could not have been closer at 11-9, 11-9, 11-9. Along the way both had accounted for Imogen Beck (daughter of Ros) who will soon be representing Scotland in the Six Nations.

 

In the absence of Flanagan, McCulloch managed to find a replacement in Davie Dall and they surprisingly made the semi final where they lost to Szymczak and Boyle. In the other half of the draw Fairley and McLaren also fought their way through to the final. There it was the more attack minded duo of Szymczak and Boyle who took the title in an entertaining final, winning 11-7,8-11,11-5,11-9.

 

In the junior event Fairley and Boyle both came through their respective groups unscathed without the loss of a set for a re-run of the open semi final. This time Fairley won in straight sets 11-2, 12-10, 11-8 for a senior/junior double. In any sport it is always good to witness young talent coming through the ranks and in this instance these two young players shared three titles between them in front of proud parents. There were, however, some hotly contested encounters involving the improving Aaron Cameron and good experience earned by such as young Sam Wood, competing in his first tournament.

 

The consolation event also proved a lively and exciting affair as many good players found themselves in this event having lost out, some unluckily, in the early rounds. All four seeds in this event made the semi finals. In the first Jim Stewart proved too powerful for the veteran Dall and MacKay beat Wyles with surprising ease. In the final Stewart surprised his more fancied opponent in opening set but MacKay eventually won through 6-11,11-7,11-2.

 

One of the more enjoyable events in most tournaments is now the hard bat competition where the sport goes ‘retro’, returning to the days where bats were made without sponge. The game is played at a slower tempo, tactics become more cat and mouse and rallies much longer. Among the early favourites were McCulloch and Hills who can both remember playing competitively with these bats but they lost out to Cameron and Wyles respectively. Boyle gained some revenge for an earlier defeat against Fairley with a straight sets victory.

 

The semis brought Boyle against Milne, the pre competition favourite for the title, and McLaren against Wyles who looked by far the most attack minded player of the four. Milne and Wyles made their way to the final in exciting games where Milne showed why he started as favourite by taking the title 11-9, 11-9 with a more tempered approach peppered with some forceful forehand hitting.

 

Over the years, this tournament has always included a ballot doubles competition where partnerships are created as the name suggests – by ballot. The tournament organiser is, of course, allowed a little discretion when making the draw to ensure that no partnership is either too strong or too weak with fun being the byword for the event. The hope is, of course, that some of the less fancied players find themselves partnering a far stronger player and going all the way. This year, that dream almost became reality.

 

As chance would have it the top half of the draw looked the weaker by far but in the semi finals McCulloch and Kamil Szymczak (son of Dariusz) beat the women’s finalists Beck and Henry. In the other half of the draw Szymczak and Swift proved too strong for Wyles and Graham Chambers. In the final the only real chance the partnership of McCulloch and Szymczak had was if Szymczak took pity on his primary school son but none was forthcoming. That said, a deciding set was required in an 11-1, 9-11, 11-4 victory but it was a proud father who watched his son collect his runners up medal.

Season 2009/10 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Lewis Hills George Flanagan
Open Doubles Flanagan & McCulloch Hills & Hills
Juniors Robbie Fairley Kieran Boyle
Consolation Aaron Cameron Alec Cameron
Ballot Doubles Milne & Kieran Boyle L Hills & Alec Cameron

 

The early stages of the individual event were played in groups with the top two in each group going forward to the knock out stages while the others qualified for a separate consolations competition. Each of the two seeded players in each group moved on without any real problem to justify the confidence shown in them by the Tournament Referee.

 

This tournament really came to life at the last sixteen stage where the main upset was when Keith MacKay accounted for current junior champion Kieran Boyle in three straight sets 11-8, 11-7, 11-6. Young Boyle had been in excellent form of late and was expected to account for his much more experienced, but enigmatic, opponent but MacKay’s close to the table half volleying style proved to be too strong on this occasion. In another encounter Kevin Milne beat Drew McLaren, a Scotland veteran international in a keenly contested game 16-14, 11-6, 11-9.

 

In the quarter finals reigning champion Lewis Hills eventually put an end to MacKay’s run in a five set thriller, and from a 1-2 set deficit, to win 11-4,9-11,3-11,11-8,11-5. Last year’s beaten finalist, Barrie Hills dropped out when he was defeated by Andy MacDougall in what was probably the latter’s best performance of the season. MacDougall showed all his fighting qualities to win in four close sets 8-11, 11-8, 13-11,11-9. Number two seed George Flanagan then accounted for Milne in another four setter 12-10, 11-7, 9-11,11-9. In yet another four set game Scotland ranked junior Robbie Fairley beat a strangely out of form John McCulloch, a former champion, 11-6,9-11,11-8,11-3. Of the four quarter final matches three went to four sets and one to a fifth set decider!

 

By contrast both semi final games were won in straight sets but in the case of the Hills versus Fairley game the result could scarcely have been tighter. Earlier in the season both had registered wins against the other but on this occasion Hills won all three sets at deuce 13-11, 12-10, 12-10. In the other, Flanagan brought MacDougall’s run to an end in a straight forward 11-4, 11-7, 12-10 victory.

 

The final reversed this trend when Hills and Flanagan served up a five set action packed thriller evenly spread with nervous unforced errors, wonderful attacking play and marvellous rallies. In the first two sets Hills easily brushed aside his opponent to take a two set lead. As Hills looked good for a victory the hard working, determined Flanagan gradually fought his way back in to the match with a win in the third set at deuce and then to even the game at two sets all. They changed ends in the last set with Flanagan leading 5-3 but once again the pendulum swung when Hills played some spectacular shots to take the title. The winning score was 11-5, 11-6, 12-14, 7-11, 11-8.

 

The doubles tournament was also played in groups in the early stages with the four top seeds taking their allotted places in the semi finals. In the first, reigning champions Flanagan & McCulloch met McLaren & Fairley and won 11-3, 15-13, 11-9. In the second the father and son combo of Barrie & Lewis Hills also won in three sets against MacDougall & Milne 11-6, 12-10, 11-9. Although both games were won without the loss of a set, four of the six could not have been closer.

 

In a rerun of last year’s final Flanagan & McCulloch retained their title but not without a titanic struggle as the game swung one way then another before taking the fifth set in comfort. The winning score was 11-13, 13-11, 7-11, 11-9,11-5. Until the last end the Hills were always ahead but when they got off to a bad start the reigning champions took full advantage.

 

The final of the junior event was contested by Whitburn Academy pupil, Robbie Fairley, and St Kentigern schoolboy Kieran Boyle. Both are Scotland ranked – Robbie at under 18 level and Kieran at under 15 level. With Robbie being favourite, young Kieran decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck and totally surprised his older opponent with a dazzling display of powerful attacking play to take the first set with ease. Only then did Robbie gradually outplay and outgun his less experienced opponent to take the title 4-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-5. The general quality of play in this game was as good as witnessed elsewhere in the tournament but Robbie’s serve and return of serve proving the deciding factor.

 

To add some fun to the day’s proceedings there is always a ballot doubles where partnerships are drawn from the hat with the referee ensuring that each partnership has a mix of skills. Usually, a partnership from the middle rankings wins the day and so it proved again when Kieran Boyle partnered Kevin Milne to a final victory over singles champion Lewis Hills and Alec Cameron. As chance would have it there was the possibility of a semi final match between Cameron senior/Hills junior and Hills senior/Cameron junior but this umpiring nightmare was avoided when the latter duo dropped out in the previous round.

 

The consolation event was won by Bathgate Academy pupil Aaron Cameron, who also finished in third place in the junior event. What made his achievements more creditable was the fact that he has been playing less than one year so should improve with more practice, hard work and coaching. The beaten finalist was his dad Alec, yet another newcomer to the sport. 

Season 2008/09 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles Lewis Hills Barrie Hills
Open Doubles McCulloch & Flanagan Hills & Hills
Junior Kieran Boyle Duncan Ewing
Consolation Duncan Ewing Colin Neilson
Ballot Doubles Rumsay & Anderson McLaren & Chambers

 

The first round of the open singles event was run in eight groups, with one seed in each group and two from each group qualifying for the next round. The group suggesting the greatest likelihood of an upset included the seeded Kevin Milne, Zbigniew Strzyzewski and the junior Duncan Ewing. Although Milne topped the group and Strzyzewski qualified for the next round in second place they did it with some difficulty. In the last sixteen all eight top seeds eased their way into the quarters.

 

At this point the competition really started to heat up. First, Lewis Hills, seeded number two, lost the first two sets against newcomer Andy Wyles before edging the third set and winning the next two sets in some comfort. Andy only joined the club at the start of the season, having previously competed in the Premier division of the Edinburgh League, and should be a great asset to the club in future years. Last year’s champion John McCulloch then found himself playing against Keith MacKay. Keith is one of the club’s unsung heroes who gives most of the top players a torrid time without administering the final coup de grace and this occasion was no different. John edged the first end and the found himself 7-9 down in the second, only to win 11-7. If that was a great escape the next set could be described as a “Houdini” performance as John fought back from 2-8 to win in three straight sets. Meanwhile, last year’s runner up, Andy MacDougall, lost in straight sets to Barrie Hills while the number one seed George Flanagan also disposed of Kevin Milne in three sets.

 

In the first semi George Flanagan took on Barrie Hills in what proved to be a battle between George’s anti loop rubber and Barrie’s long pimpled rubber. Surprisingly, Flanagan succumbed quite easily to his opponent in three sets. The second semi was a battle between two topspin hitters with the younger, more powerful Hills winning in some style, also in straight sets to deny McCulloch the opportunity of defending his title in the final. It can be said that McCulloch and Flanagan found “too many Hills to climb”.

 

Father and son, Barrie and Lewis Hills then fought out the final. Although Lewis lost the first set to his father, one suspected that he would always pull through and so it proved as the younger player exhibited more flair and hitting power to overcome his father. The winning score was 9-11, 11-5,11-9,11-9 and there can be no doubt that Lewis Hills was a very worthy champion on the day.

 

Again, the first round of the Open Doubles was played in groups but by the time the semi final stages had been reached all four top seeds had justified the Tournament Referee’s ratings. In the first of these John McCulloch and George Flanagan met the new partnership of Andy Wyles and Zbigniew Strzyzewski and moved on to the final with reasonable ease. The second was more closely fought but Andy MacDougall and Kevin Milne lost in four sets to Barrie and Lewis Hills. The final was therefore contested by the four singles semi finalists and pitted the losers against the winners.

 

Both partnerships had played together regularly over the years. The father/son bond had been nurtured steadily over the years but the McCulloch/Flanagan partnership had won a previous West Lothian title over twenty years previously. In this instance McCulloch and Flanagan repeated their previous success by taking the title in three straight sets, albeit with a little luck on the way. That said they also won the doubles competition without losing a set. In the final the winning score was a very close 11-9, 14-12,11-8 to exact revenge for their earlier defeats.

 

The Junior event suffered a little from the non-attendance of last year’s winner, Daniel MacKay and Robbie Fairley through injury but, nevertheless, an exciting competition ensued. As usual, the first round was played in groups to maximise the experience gained by the unseeded players. Making their way through the qualifiers and to the final were the top seeded Duncan Ewing and Kieran Boyle. In this instance, Duncan may have thought himself favourite having beaten his opponent so recently but the younger Kieran is improving all the time. Indeed, Kieran is currently Scotland ranked number nine at Minor level (under 13) while Duncan recently attended a training camp in Germany to improve his basic skills.

 

This final was probably the pick of the day in the entertainment factor as both players displayed good fighting qualities as they matched each other shot for shot in a series of long rallies. Duncan kept good control of the table by forcing the younger Kieran back with his topspin shots but Kieran was often able to pick off good winners to take the point. Eventually, Kieran was able to atone for last year’s final defeat by winning 11-6, 11-9,11-7.

 

All first round losers in the singles find themselves fighting it out for a Consolations trophy. Here, the standard of play might not reach the levels of the main event but it is probably fair to say that it was just as fiercely contested, probably more so. In the final Duncan Ewing met Colin Neilson and between them gave us the closest final of all. Duncan may well have won in three straight sets but one look at the final score underlines just how close this game was. Duncan’s winning score was 12-10, 12-10, 13-11 – all three sets won on deuce!

 

The last competition of the day was meant to be a fun event and so it proved. Doubles partners are chosen by chance, at least mostly, and Referees are given a little licence to ensure that partnerships are reasonably equal. This encourages more fraternising between natural groupings and allows the less experienced to gain from the expertise of a more proficient partner.

 

In this instance, two reasonably well matched partnerships contested the final. Drew McLaren and Graham Chambers may very well have lost in straight sets to Martin Rumsey and George Anderson but the final score suggests that if the game had been played best of seven ends rather than best of five ends, the conclusion might have been different. Martin and George won 11-1, 11-7, 19-17 in a nail biting conclusion.

Season 2007/08 Champion(s) Runner Up(s)
Open Singles John McCulloch Andy MacDougall
Open Doubles
Junior Daniel MacKay Kieran Boyle
Consolation Martin Rumsay George Anderson
Ballot Doubles L Hills & Anderson MacDougall & Rooney

After a long absence the West Lothian Table Tennis Club decided to re-institute the West Lothian Closed Championships so the cream of West Lothian table tennis talent arrived at Bathgate Academy Sports Hall on Sunday 25th May to compete for the various titles.

 

In the first quarter final of the senior event John McCulloch met Drew McLaren. McCulloch may well have been expected to win but even he must have been surprised at the ease of his victory in a 11-5, 11-6,11-2 win. In the second of the quarters Barrie Hills put all of his vast experience to good use in beating an excellent all rounder in Keith MacKay. The third quarter final brought Kevin Milne against Jonathan Maisey, who had both done well to reach the latter stages. Milne had only re-joined the club at the start of the season while Maisey had not been able to play as much as he would have liked because of studies. In the event Milne proved just too strong.

 

In the last of the quarter final games two of the pre tournament favourites in Andy MacDougall and Lewis (son of Barrie) Hills were brought together. A tense and titanic struggle of powerful hitting then ensued which saw MacDougall win in four sets. That, however, does not give the full picture as MacDougall only won the first of these four sets 19-17 in an encounter which could easily have gone either way.

 

In the first semi former Scotland ranked, Glasgow Youth Champion and Renfrewshire Champion John McCulloch took on Barrie Hills presently Scotland ranked at number three at the over 60 age group in a battle of which both veterans can be proud. This contest proved a complete contrast in styles as McCulloch’s heavy topspin only gradually broke down Hills’ dogged defence in five gruelling sets. McCulloch eventually won the tie at 8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8,11-7 with the fourth set being on a knife edge until the final points.

 

The second semi final brought Kevin Milne and Andy MacDougall face to face. Milne must have been reasonably confident in taking on the higher ranked MacDougall, as he had won their previous encounter, but MacDougall proved too strong on this occasion and won in straight sets at 11-9, 11-9, 11-3. Had either of the first two sets gone the other way the result may have been different. Such is Milne’s improvement over the season that his day will surely come.

 

In many respects the final was an anti climax as McCulloch again ground out a victory, this time in three straight sets. His tight serving and heavy topspin kept MacDougall on the defensive throughout although MacDougall did win many of the more entertaining points with his powerful counter hitting. The final result was a 11-7, 11-3, 11-9 win for McCulloch and with this win came the title.

 

In the final of the juniors, former Scotland ranked at under 13 Daniel MacKay (son of Keith) met the up and coming Kieran Boyle. To reach the final Daniel had disposed of Duncan Ewing who had beaten him earlier in the day in the Senior event. Although young Kieran put in his usual effervescent display the title went to the more mature Daniel in a very entertaining encounter.

 

As a matter of policy it was decided to make the Doubles competition more of a fun event by trying to match players according to ability in order to spread the titles and make the eventual winners more of an uncertainty. By way of example, the winner of the main title John McCulloch was paired with the day’s youngest competitor, Rachel Milne (daughter of Kevin). Although this partnership lost in the first round to the eventual winners, young Rachel is convinced her partner let her down badly and who can argue.

 

The eventual winners were Lewis Hills and George Anderson who beat Andy MacDougall and Brian Rooney in three straight sets. In winning a second runners-up medal MacDougall did prove to be the day’s best bridesmaid.

 

As a spectacle the final of the Consolation event between Martin Rumsey and George Anderson proved as good as most games on the day. One of the competitors gave the competition the title of the ‘Numpties Shield’ and although this did provide a certain amount of amusement on the day this event did prove to be as competitive and hard fought as the others. In terms of club ranking Anderson was the higher placed of the two but Rumsey has more often than not come out best in their previous meetings.

 

With the support of his watching wife, daughter and granddaughter fully behind him Rumsey gave his usual energetic display and once again foiled Anderson whose legendary backhand hitting was not enough on the day. Like Kevin Milne, Rumsey only returned to the sport this season and these two are proving very useful additions to the club.

 

Note

A summary of the various winners and runners up of the West Lothian Closed Championships can be found under “Archive – Role of Honour”.