The much-improved and often under-rated Russell Hillier took the plaudits in the Clacton & District League’s Handicap Singles Tournament, taking the Gordon Denton Trophy for a second time after first winning it in 2011.
By taking the title, Hillier (pictured above) joins an elite band of only seven players who’ve won the trophy on more than one occasion in its 40-year history.
In the final of the tournament, held on Saturday at Windsor’s St James’ Hall venue, the no-nonsense, unfussy and determined play of Hillier (+1) defeated a visibly tiring Adam Wilkin (-1) 11-3, 11-4, 11-9.
Hillier’s consistency proved too good for Wilkin who was unable to reproduce the excellent form he’d shown all day in what was, in all probability, a match too far for him after two energy-sapping matches played in quick succession in the previous rounds.
The result of the final never seemed in doubt until, with Hillier 10-5 ahead in the third set, Wilkin pulled back to 10-9, only to see his opponent take the vital title-winning point.
But take nothing away from Hillier, now a much better all-round player who allies attacking winners with his noted dogged defensive play, and who took full advantage of his good fortune when Doug Green withdrew before a potentially draining quarter-final meeting.
Hillier started the day in a Group consisting of Kevin James, Paul Metcalf and Daryl Lott, finishing as runner-up to Metcalf, and thankful (on +2) for an important for a 10-12, 11-8, 14-16, 11-9, 11-7 victory over James (-6).
In Round One of the knockout stage, Hillier (+1) defeated the always-dangerous Mark Ratcliffe (-1) 11-6, 11-5, 3-11, 12-10 and, after receiving a walk-over in the quarter-final, (on +1) beat Gavin Price (-5) 11-8, 12-10, 13-11 in a match where Price will feel he might have come closer with more accurate play.
Wilkin, a previous winner of the trophy in 2016, had finished runner-up in a Group topped by Bob Jillins, and which included Dominic Joannou and Jason Gale, Wilkin’s 11-8, 0-11, 0-11, 11-9, 12-10 win (on -8) against Joannou (+2) proving crucial for qualification for the knockout stage.
Wilkin (on +1) then had a convincing 11-5, 11-9, 11-1 win over the tenacious Martin Edwards (-3) before, in his quarter-final (on -15), having to use all his experience and much energy to resist the youthful challenge of junior Tom Bryden (+2) 8-11, 13-11, 11-2, 11-8.
And if that was a long, tough match, Wilkin (-1) needed a full five sets to overcome the challenge of 2019 champion John Barton (+1) 4-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5 in an encounter which see-sawed throughout.
In a tournament of many notable performances, honourable mentions should go to juniors Tom Bryden, JJ Barry and Lucy Carvell for their efforts during the day.
Bryden showed plenty of aggression and a deal of promise in reaching the Round of the last eight, getting through his Group and then (on +1), beating fellow-Division Three player Sharon Gowlett (-6) 11-7, 11-9, 11-8, before testing Wilkin to the full in the quarter-finals.
JJ Barry was only a whisker away from qualifying for the quarter-finals, beaten in an epic Round One match (on +2) by Allen Denyer (-8) in a nail-biting 12-10, 3-11, 12-10, 3-11, 13-11 clash.
Finally, well done to Lucy Carvell who stayed unbeaten in her group matches with three close-fought five-set wins, before displaying much patience (on +2) trying to outwit the wily Doug Green (-11) who eventually took the match 11-9, 11-5, 13-11.
It was an encounter which sapped Green’s energy, although perhaps not surprising in a match in which the age difference between the two players was a mere 72 years!
Main results – Final: Russell Hillier (+1) beat Adam Wilkin (-1) 11-3, 11-4, 11-9; Semi-finals: Hillier (+1) beat Gavin Price (+5) 11-8, 12-10, 13-11; Wilkin (-1) beat John Barton (+1) 4-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 5-11; Quarter-finals: Hillier (-5) w/o v Doug Green (+1); Wilkin (-15) beat Tom Bryden (+2) 8-11, 13-11, 11-2, 11-8; Price (-11) beat Allen Denyer (+2) 11-4, 11-6, 14-12; Barton (0) beat Mark Salter (0) 11-5, 11-8, 6-11, 13-11.
A total of 32 players, including seven previous winners, competed in the event, with players evenly representing all three Divisions of the League – 10 each from Divisions One and Two, and 12 from Division Three.
Walton B 3 Brotherhood A 7
Walton C 2 Walton A 8
Nomads Lions 2 Nomads Panthers 8
Windsor Kestrels 5 Windsor Buzzards 5
Brotherhood D 6 Windsor Harriers 4
Brotherhood C 5 Brotherhood B 5
Windsor Penguins 10 Windsor Magpies 0
Brotherhood F 0 Brotherhood E 10
Windsor Merlins 9 Walton E 1
Nomads Lynx 0 Nomads Leopards 10
KNOCKOUT CUP: ROUND TWO
Nomads Lynx 2 Walton D 5