Maria Tsaptsinos is stepping back from top-level table tennis as she focuses on her career as a television sports producer.

It means she will not compete at the Mark Bates Ltd National Championships and will therefore not be defending the clean sweep of titles she won last year – Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles with Tin-Tin Ho and Mixed Doubles with Sam Walker.

Tsaptsinos works for ITV Sport and has been part of the production team for huge events including the football World Cup, the 6 Nations and the FA Cup.

Her workload is such that she has not been able to put in the hours in the practice hall and does not believe she would do herself justice at the Nationals next month.

“I don’t think I could defend the titles the way I would want,” said the Reading athlete. “People are paying to watch the biggest event in the country and that’s not fair on the people watching, or on myself, the other players or my doubles partners if I can’t give everything to it.

“It’s difficult with my work schedule – I work most weekends and I’m on the move constantly, so it’s too difficult to practise and keep up a high level.

“I feel that I have achieved as much as possible with the opportunities given to me, and that I need to pursue my TV career and see where that will take me.”

Tsaptsinos began playing aged 11 at the Kingfisher club in Reading and credits the club and her early coach and mentor Brian Halliday with launching her on the path to England representation.

“Brian really supported me through the early years of my career and helped me fall in love with the sport,” reflected Tsaptsinos.

Maria with Brian Halliday

Her table tennis career continued at the University of Nottingham, the venue where she won her two Women’s Singles national titles.

As well as those victories, she has six Women’s Doubles titles to her name and won the Mixed for the first time last year. But the undoubted highlight of her career was the team bronze medal alongside Kelly Sibley, Tin-Tin Ho and Denise Payet at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

She said: “For 15 years of my life, I’ve played professional or semi-professional table tennis, so it’s a bit of a change.

“There’s definitely sadness in stepping away, but it’s also nice to have a different style of life and I’m on top of friendships now and seeing my family a lot more.

“Table tennis is a huge part of my life and always will be. This chapter of playing at a high level is closed, but I’ll endeavour to still train when I go back to Reading and I will pick up a bat now and again to try and stay involved.”

Tsaptsinos may not be competing at the Nationals, but she plans to be there as a spectator on Finals Day on Sunday March 26 to see who takes her titles.

Maria and the England team with their bronze medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games