Michael Andrews is the new Braintree table tennis champion. In a high-class, all-out attacking men‘s singles final, the former Essex No 1 junior had just enough to keep team-mate Paul Davison from claiming a seventh title.
Both players kept up a non-stop barrage throughout the final, often taking the ball lower than looked possible and spreading the play on both wings.
It was Davison who started the brighter, often outspeeding his younger opponent to take the first game 11-5.
Andrews successfully took the sting out of his opponent’s attack over the next two games but had to come back from 4-1 down in the second and then withstand a Davison comeback from 4-8 to 8-8 in the third.
Davison was out of the blocks quickly in the fourth as two players who know each other’s game inside out tried different ways to outfox the man at the other end.
Eventually Andrews pulled out a lead in the fifth that Davison could not quite match and took the final game 11-7.
In the semi-finals, Andrews came past former champion Terry Dowsett, who showed some of the style of old but could not match Andrews’ speed on the table, while Ken Lewis got on some trademark flat hits against Davison but found more of them coming back than he is used to.
Andrews and Davison teamed up to take the men’s doubles title that Davison won last time out with Graham Playle.
It threatened to be a rout against the unseeded Dan Anderson and Takunda Nerutanga who disappeared 11-3 in the first game in a flurry of activity from the other end of the table.
But they stuck it out and gradually began to pose some questions to the No 1 seeds, so much so that they led 10-6 in the second game and 9-6 in the third but were unable to hold on in either.
Davison added a second title, the veterans’ singles, which he has held since he became eligible in 2017.
It was a touch of déjà vu as he again faced Lewis and with pretty much the same result, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 compared with 11-5, 11-4, 11-5 in the men’s semi-final.
By contrast, finals night produced two sets that finished at deuce in the fifth. Steve Pennell looked dead and buried after two bruising games against Ashley Skeggs in the division one singles final.
Both players are heavy thumpers of the ball but at the start it was Skeggs’ thumps that were more telling.
But after setbacks of 11-5 and 11-6, Pennell began to warm up and found more of his hits going on as Skeggs lost some of his confidence.
Pennell won the third game 11-7 and looked in complete control as he took the fourth 11-2.
But Skeggs was not finished, regained his composure and led throughout the fifth, only to get stage fright at 10-7.
Pennell saved the three match points, and a fourth at 11-10 before taking the next three points for victory.
The division three singles final followed a similar pattern. Netts C team-mates Peter Clark and Szczepan Ziobro have proved too strong for most in their first season back in the game after lengthy breaks and with some classy play showed that they should be happy in division two next season.
This time it was a comeback that didn’t quite come off. Like Pennell, Clark lost the first two games but then settled down, looked more composed in the vital points and it was Ziobro who started making more mistakes.
Clark took the third and fourth games but after a neck-and-neck final game it was Ziobro who held on to take the title at 14-12.
The second division singles was more straightforward. And surprisingly so. Adam Clift has beaten Garry Fryatt in two of their three league outings this season and lost in five games in the other.
But he failed to get going, appeared to lack the confidence to open up the game and unexpectedly it was Fryatt who showed the greater attacking tendencies. He also has a rock-solid defence and remained in control throughout to win in three straight games.
Adam’s brother Sean Clift was also on the receiving end in the restricted singles but as he was facing Dan Anderson, unbeaten in the league, this was little surprise.
Anderson has a canny style that both induces mistakes from an opponent and opens up chances to hit. Despite some discomfort in the third game, which he let slip away, he came back strongly to take the fourth 11-5 and the title.
Men’s singles final: Michael Andrews beat Paul Davison 3-2 (5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8). Semi-finals: Andrews beat Terry Dowsett 3-0 (11-6, 11-3, 11-7); Davison beat Ken Lewis 3-0 (11-5, 11-4, 11-5).
Men’s doubles: Andrews and Davison beat Dan Anderson and Takunda Nerutanga 3-0 (11-3, 13-11, 11-9).
Veterans’ singles: Davison beat Lewis 3-0 (11-7, 11-4, 11-4).
Restricted singles: Anderson beat Sean Clift 3-1 (11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5).
Division one singles: Steve Pennell beat Ashley Skeggs 3-2 (5-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-2, 13-11).
Division two singles: Garry Fryatt beat Adam Clift 3-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-9).
Division three singles: Szczepan Ziobro beat Peter Clark 3-2 (11-4, 11-8, 8-11, 12-14, 13-11).