Sam Hume repeated his success of last year in the Clacton & District League’s Closed Championships, retaining the coveted Men’s Singles title he won for the first time in 2022.

In a final of high-quality table tennis, the best seen at the Championships for many seasons, 22-year-old Hume edged past former champion James Denyer, the player he’d beaten to take the trophy last year, 3-2 (11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8).

It was a match bursting with entertainment, tension and drama, with both players displaying their well-known attacking skills, as well as some breathtaking retrieving, from the back of the court, whilst occasionally adding the surprise drop-shot – and all played in a typically friendly spirit.

The final was a credit to both players, both home-grown local talents, a match which will remain in the memory for a long time. And who knows? These two players are young enough to dominate the Clacton table tennis scene for years to come, Hume having made his first Men’s Singles final appearance in 2015 as a 14-year-old, and Denyer in 2013, aged 16 years.

Overall, the event went to form, with all four seeds reaching the semi-finals, Hume defeating Greg Green, winning in three-straight as he had all day against every opponent, and Denyer dropping his only set of the tournament in getting past a determined Paul Hume 3-1 (11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 17-15).

The unsuccessful quarter-finalists were Kevin Gowlett, Adam Cuthbert, John Pattrick and Kevin James.

There was a measure of revenge for Denyer in the Men’s Doubles where, partnered with Greg Green, they took the honours 3-2 (2-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6) against Sam Hume and Adam Cuthbert in another tense five-setter.

Hume and Cuthbert got off to a flyer and, initially, it seemed the No 2 seeds might cause an upset. But Denyer and Green are an astute pairing, and gradually established their superiority. It was a second Men’s Doubles title for Denyer, but a seventh for Green, although his first with Denyer. For the record, Green has now appeared in nine of the last 12 Men’s Doubles finals.

In the Mixed Doubles, Sam Hume and Gracie Edwards retained their title 3-1 (11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5) against the new pairing of Greg Green and Annabelle Stallwood. And although the defending champions had a minor wobble in the second set, they were confident enough to re-group in defence of their trophy.

This was the first of three successes for Gracie Edwards who, as in 2022, took a hat-trick of titles.

There was an excellent entry of 11 competitors in the Ladies’ Singles but Gracie was the hot favourite and she did not disappoint, defeating surprise finalist Sharon Gowlett, making her first appearance in a Championship final, comfortably in three-straight. But it was nevertheless an excellent day’s table tennis for Sharon, who made her way to the final with unexpected wins against Annabelle Stallwood, 11-6 in the fifth in the quarter-final, and Debra Found, last year’s runner-up, in the semi-final.

And so Gracie, having taken her sixth Ladies Singles’ title in seven seasons, now moves into second place in the all-time list of women players, although she’ll have some way to go before to reaches the 19 Singles titles won by Clacton legend Sheila Howe – who just happened to be present at the Championships, and how lovely it was to see her there.

Gracie, together with Debra Found, followed this with victory in the Ladies’ Doubles. Isabel Barton and Tricia Salter provided sterner opposition than the title-holders were possibly expecting and they had to fight hard to come through 3-1 (11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9), the outsiders unable to muster sufficient consistency to provide an upset.

Again for the record, it was Tricia’s first appearance in a Ladies Doubles’ final since 2009, the year she won her only Ladies Doubles’ title.

The Veterans’ Singles was a personal triumph for Kevin James, a four-times winner of this event, with his first trophy-success being 21 years ago. This year, the reliable James was a winner once again, defeating surprise finalist John Pattrick 3-0 (11-9, 11-5, 11-9), Pattrick having disposed of seeded Kevin Gowlett in a nail-biting semi-final 3-1 (13-11, 4-11, 11-9, 20-18).

James was aiming to become the first player to win both Veterans’ titles in the same year, but he was denied success in the Super-Veterans Singles by Gavin Price, appearing in his fourth consecutive final, having twice won the title.

Last year, Price lost to James in the final but this year the tables were turned, Price defeating James in the semi-final 3-2 (12-14, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6, 11-9), and following this with a win in four against Martin Edwards, a repeat of their meeting in the 2019 final.

There are no seedings in the Restricted Singles but Greg Green, the favourite to take the title, duly did so, but needing to eliminate dangerous opponents in Phil Smith, Kevin James and John Hatley on his way to the final. And there it was the silky-smooth table tennis action of Green which eventually proved too much for Adam Wilkin, a vastly-improved player appearing in his first major Championship final. The final score was 3-1 (9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-2).

Dan Grindrod was top seed in the Junior Singles and, in the final, he defeated Joe Sherwin 3-1 (11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4). Perhaps Grindrod had been given a wake-up call as, in the Group stage, Sherwin had played out of his skin to beat Grindrod 11-4 in the fifth.

Grindrod and Tom Bryden were strong favourites for the Junior Doubles but they were made to work for their silverware by Lucy Carvell and Ruby Gallagher, the 3-0 (12-10, 11-8, 11-9) scoreline not a genuine reflection of the laudable account the underdogs gave of themselves.

Carvell and Gallagher were on opposite sides of the net in the final of the Junior Girls’ Singles – and what a final it proved to be, the pair producing possibly the second-most memorable match of the Tournament. In a see-saw encounter in which both girls produced table tennis of a quality which they’d rarely shown in League play, Ruby edged it 3-2 (5-11, 11-5, 8-11, 14-12, 11-4), although she had to save three title points against her determined opponent. A performance of which both competitors can be rightly proud.

Joe Sherwin was a surprise, but deserved, winner of the Cadet Singles, beating No 2 seed Ruby Gallagher in the semi-final and top seed Tom Bryden 3-1 (12-10, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6) in the final. A special mention here for Jack Hillier, the youngest competitor in the Championships, and surely a star of the future?

Mark Salter is the new Division Two Singles champion. A beaten finalist in 2016, Salter claimed the crown with a tight 3-0 (12-10, 11-9, 14-12) victory over Daryl Lott. It was a contest as close as the scoreline suggests, with Salter’s power-hitting ultimately proving the vital factor. Second seed Barry Allen went out to John Gallagher in the quarter-finals in a tense 11-9 in the decider.

The Division Three Singles went to form with brothers Sam Plummer and Joe Plummer, the joint top seeds, reaching the final. This proved a success for older brother Sam, 3-1 (11-5, 12-10, 13-15, 12-10), but the match was of such high quality that, had a stranger walked in without knowing, they could well have thought it a Division Two standard match – or even higher. Sharon Gowlett, who’d disposed of expected semi-finalist Bob Jillins, and Paul Woolnough, made it to the last four.

The Championships attracted an excellent initial entry of 63 players, and some 230 individual matches were played over the two days. The tournament was sponsored by The Survey Initiative and the League is most grateful to Gary Cattermole for his generous sponsorship.

Thanks also go to Kevin James, Phil Smith and Jenny Higgins for their sponsorship of individual events, and to Mark Salter who provided individual commemorative medals.

Men’s Singles (sponsored by Kevin James):
S Hume beat J Denyer 3-2 (11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8)
Ladies’ Singles: G Edwards beat S Gowlett 3-0 (11-3, 11-1, 11-5)
Men’s Doubles: J Denyer/G Green beat A Cuthbert/S Hume 3-2 (2-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6)
Ladies’ Doubles: G Edwards/D Found beat I Barton/T Salter 3-1 (11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9)
Mixed Doubles: S Hume/G Edwards beat G Green/A Stallwood 3-1 (11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5)
Veterans’ Singles (sponsored by Phil Smith): K James beat J Pattrick 3-0 (11-9, 11-5, 11-9)
Super-Veterans’ Singles: G Price beat M Edwards 3-1 (17-15, 7-11, 11-2, 11-7)
Junior Boys’ Singles (sponsored by Jenny Higgins): D Grindrod beat J Sherwin 3-1 (11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4)
Junior Doubles: T Bryden/D Grindrod beat L Carvell/R Gallagher 3-0 (12-10, 11-8, 11-9)
Junior Girls’ Singles (sponsored by Jenny Higgins): R Gallagher beat L Carvell 3-2 (5-11, 11-5, 8-11, 14-12, 11-4)
Cadet Singles: J Sherwin beat T Bryden 3-1 (12-10, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6)
Division Two Singles: M Salter beat D Lott 3-0 (12-10, 11-9, 14-12)
Division Three Singles: S Plummer beat Joe Plummer 3-1 (11-5, 12-10, 13-15, 12-10)
Restricted Singles: G Green beat A Wilkin 3-1 (9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-2)