Long’s short stay will be memorable after double win
Top players from the Stamford and Rutland League crossed swords in the annual Division One tournament at Northborough Village Hall.
The attendance was down from last year and there were some notable absences, with a rearranged fixture between Uffington and Braunston A taking place on the same evening so those players could not attend the championship.
The singles competition began proceedings and three groups of players were drawn.
At last year’s annual the teams decided that the Divisional Championships competitions would be unseeded.
So, with 11 players entering the competition, there would be two groups of four and one of three. The winners of each of the groups would progress to the semi-finals and the two runners-up from the groups of four would play-off for the final semi-final spot.
Interestingly, the unseeded random draw did not throw up any potential ‘group of death’ with the division’s top players avoiding each other in the group stages. However, there would be no room for slip ups.
Group One saw two Stamford School players, in Denise Jakobi and Leigh Ware, and two Bourne B players in Stuart Wills and Chris Holland pitted against each other.
The games went largely to form with Chris Holland getting one over on his team-mate.
The final game between Denise and Leigh effectively decided who would win the group and who would be runner up. In a close encounter, it was Leigh who edged it 11-9, 12-10.
Group Two saw three Bourne players – Steve Smith, John Buck and Paul Stark – against MTTG’s Dave Needham.
Dave, the favourite to progress, made light work of his opponents and took a clean sweep of 2-0 victories.
With Paul Stark losing all three of his games the runners up spot would be decided between Steve and John.
From the previous group games it looked like Steve might have the upper hand to progress, however, John played excellently to beat Steve in straight sets and secure a play-off against Denise.
Group Three, made up of only three players in Steve Williams, Ziggy Poberezniuk and Long Ly, was the hardest to progress from.
The overwhelming favourite would be Long Ly, yet to be beaten this season.
The first game of the group saw Steve against Long with Steve knowing that he would need to win to progress.
He played excellently from the outset, picking his shots well and keeping himself in rallies to win points that looked lost.
Taking the game to 10-9, he was a single point away from taking a 1-0 lead which, in a best of three match, would put the pressure on Long that could have given him a shot at victory.
However, three points on the bounce for Long, gave him the lead and impetus to push on with a second set victory of 11-1.
The play-off match between John Buck and Denise Jakobi was a very close affair. Honours were even after two games and the deciding set was evenly matched to 6-6. Denise dug in and won the next few points to close it out 11-7.
The semi-final line ups saw Dave Needham take on Leigh Ware and Denise Jakobi face Long Ly.
In the first semi-final, it was Leigh who prevailed. He admitted that a few nets and edges went his way but he took his chances to see out the match against a very tricky opponent in Dave.
In the second semi-final, Denise’s fine run came to end as Long Ly won out in straight sets 11-5, 11-9.
The final match pairing between Leigh Ware and Long Ly was a worthy line up with two of the division’s highest averaging players facing off.
However, it was Leigh that was certainly the underdog going into the match as he would have to do what nobody this season had been able to do and beat Long.
Despite the final being played as a best of five, with more opportunity to get into the game , Long was commanding from the start and allowed Leigh no opportunity to make an impression, wrapping up the final in straight sets of 11-5, 11-5, 11-4.
Due to the number of teams entering, the doubles competition took the format of a round robin with all teams playing each other. The team with the most wins at the end would be crowned champions.
Because of the time the singles completion finished it looked as though the pairing of Long Ly and Steve Smith would have to withdraw from the doubles. However, a quick phone call meant they were able to compete and they must have been pleased they did.
With a clean sweep of wins they were the stand out pairing and meant that Long wrapped up the singles and doubles double.
The pairings of Leigh Ware and Steve Williams and Stuart Wills and Chris Holland both managed to take a set from the winning Bourne duo but they never looked particularly troubled.
It was the pairing of Dave Needham and Denise Jakobi, who only lost to the winning pair, that took the runners-up spot.
This could be the first and only season that Long Ly will play in the Stamford and Rutland League, but he has made quite an impression in a short space of time being unbeaten in all singles competitions, from league to Ketco Cup to Divisional Championships.