Paul Drinkhall Claims 3rd National Men’s Title
I’m still in China and things are pretty hectic at the moment. I just want to congratulate Paul Drinkhall on behalf of Barrow Table Tennis Club on regaining the English Men’s National Title, which he last won in 2009. Below, you can see a write-up by Steven Bailey taken from Paul’s website.
Paul justified his top billing at the English National Championships over the weekend of the 5th, 6th and 7th of March 2011.
Seeded No.1 for every event he played in, Paul – despite not finding his best form – had enough gas in the tank to take two gold medals and two silver medals in the event held in its usual location at the Ponds Forge leisure centre in Sheffield.
The Friday started with Paul reaching the final of the Under 21 event against Liam Pitchford of Derbyshire, who had just beaten Paul’s England team mate Darius Knight in his Semi Final. In doing so Paul had to take care of business against the much improved David McBeath in the Quarter Finals and then Chris Doran in the Semi Finals, which he did without too many problem.
The final against Liam was a great match for the spectators and showcased an in form Pitchford fighting for his first taste of an Under 21 Gold. Paul – gunning for his third Gold In three consecutive years in this event, and perhaps with half an eye on his campaign for the Men’s Singles – struggled to really get going and lost the first game at deuce, hitting back to win the second 11 – 7. From there on Pitchford, playing with a real sense of conviction and showcasing some great stroke making played like a man with nothing to lose and took the next two games to take his first Under 21 National title. A disappointing result, but Silver medal number 1 in the bag.
Saturday’s play began with Paul teaming up with his partner and English No.2 Joanna Parker to defend the Mixed Doubles title currently held by the pairing. After disposing of David Meads and Jess Dawson then Sam Walker and Tressa Armitage in the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals respectively, it was down to business with a match against a familiar duo – Darius Knight (England No.4) and Kelly Sibley (England No.1), last year’s losing finalists. After going two games and 9 – 2 down it looked like the show was over for Paul and Joanna, but in the comeback of the competition the pair fought to win the third game 11 – 9 then the next two games relatively comfortably to successfully defend the title. Gold medal number 1 in the bag!
The Men’s doubles very nearly went the same way – Paul and new partner Liam Pitchford ( Looking like a great combo for the future) were untroubled in their Quarter Final match up against Richard Andrews and Justin Ma and then again in the penultimate match against Lorestas Trumpauskas and Craig Bryant, not dropping a single end en route to the Final.
The Final proved to be an incredible match up against the pairing of Danny Reed and Chris Doran. Reed and Doran were hot out of the blocks and raced into a surprising two game lead over Paul and Liam, who regrouped and countered too show there class levelling matters at 2 – 2. In the final set, Reed and Doran – playing with total freedom and nothing to lose – held on to tie the scores at 7-7, winning in many peoples opinion the rally of the tournament after all four players produced some terrific strokes in a loop to loop exchange that saw the pairing’s using every inch of the show court. The No.2 seeds eventually clinched the title 11 – 9 in the fifth game that was an absolute credit to all four players. Silver medal number in the bag.
Saturday also saw the start of the ‘biggie’ – the Men’s Senior event. Seeded number 1, a focused and determined Paul was out for his hat trick in this event after previously winning in 2007 and 2009. Being the hot favourite brings its own kind of pressure, and Paul proved this weekend as he has done on so many other occasions exactly why he has maintained the English No.1 senior ranking position for so long with some incredible attacking play and exactly the right type of attitude.
After disposing of Alim Hirji in the last 32, Paul’s last 16 encounter was with Will Maybanks – both of these players came from respected coach Gergerly Urban’s stable and Will who is training in Hungary full time and competing in Austria showed his vast improvement by taking the first game of the match before Paul found a higher gear to run out a 4 games to 1 winner and book his place in the Quarter Finals.
The last match of the evening, and moved from the usual Sunday morning spot to accommodate Sky TV coverage, matched Paul against the hard hitting and explosive Matt Ware, the England ranked No.7 from Hampshire. Ware used his powerful two wing attacking game to take the first set against Paul, who returned to the table re focused and looking to use his powerful forehand at every opportunity. Displaying absolute concentration, Paul won the next three games comfortably, and despite Ware stealing the 5th game Paul took control of the match and ran out a 4 – 2 winner.
Onto Sundays matches, and the first matchup of the day – Paul’s Semi Final encounter against England No.5 Andrew Baggaley. Paul – despite competing and enjoying success In four events compared to Baggaley’s one – looked sharp as a knife in this match and he absolutely stamped his authority on proceedings from the word go.
The experienced Baggaley – who had survived a real scare in the previous evenings tumultuous match with Darius Knight (4 – 2 in favour of Andrew, a match much closer than the score line suggests) showed his metal to win the first and fifth games at deuce but after that was rarely in with a chance as the Loftus man romped home to a famous victory. The score line tells its own story – the four games Paul won were by comfortable margins, 11 – 6, 11 – 8, 11 – 1 and 11 – 4 with some top class attacking play from both wings. The additional power Paul is able to generate into his strokes was evident in this game and his total professionalism shone through in what was a true display of great table tennis.
In the other half of the draw, England No.3 Danny Reed enjoyed a surprising victory over England No.2 Liam Pitchford, coming back from 3 games to 1 down to take the match 4 – 3 with a good display of two wing attacking play to set up the final match of the day.
The Final started with Paul taking the first game 11 – 7 with a display of awesome attacking strokes from all over the court. Time and time again his service and superior touch play around the net allowed him to make the first strong attacking stroke and Reed was unable to cope with the additional power from his opponent.
To his credit, Reed was able to win the second game with a series of backhand counter loop strokes which he used to good effect rather than his favoured forehand stroke from the backhand court. This lost game seemed to spur Paul on and he was absolutely dominant in taking the next three games and the match 4 – 1 to clinch his third English National Senior Men’s title. Time and time again Paul was able to dominate Reed with his strength and extra time on the ball and even when Reed managed to make the first attack Paul’s holding game meant he could absorb the first attack then counter with devastating precision and power.
A fantastic achievement for Paul, his third National Senior title aged just 21 – Paul is ready to work to improve his game even further, so let’s hope it is the third of many more to come… there is every chance it will be. Watch this space!