A champion of every junior age group from U11 upwards, Stacey finally added the men’s singles to his enviable list by beating Phil Ogier 4-2 in the culmination of Saturday’s action at the GTTA Centre.
With the delayed arrival of the coronavirus-postponed championships came surprises and the odd upset, not least the early exit of the other Stacey twin and defending champion, Lawrence.
Lawrence Stacey’s pre-tournament expectation was that the title battle would be wide open in the absence of UK-based star Garry Dodd.
It certainly was, and an outside contender, fifth seed Paul Hainsworth, dispatched him in a marathon quarter-final deserving ‘match of the night’ status.
Hainsworth snuck the opener 12-10 but Stacey soon found himself on the front foot, leading 2-1 and 3-2.
Stacey suffered dearly for letting Hainsworth get back into his game and sway the outcome of another deuce on the sixth set.
This forced a seventh-set decider where a composed Hainsworth, initially 3-0 down, punished Stacey’s errors to emerge an 11-7 winner.
In his semi, Hainsworth kept this momentum by inching clear of Ogier only for his rival to come from behind to win in five sets.
Seeing Josh Stacey dispatch the recent Whistlers Open champion, teenager Ben Foss, in straight sets on the adjacent table augured well for the ensuing final.
But veteran Ogier, a seven-time winner from 1999 to 2014, knows how to rise to the occasion.
The youngster started the stronger, edging the first set 12-10 before dominating the next 11-4.
Yet table tennis can be an unpredictable sport, something Ogier showed by blasting to 10-0 in a third set where nothing was going right for Stacey. Had Ogier not blundered on his late trick shot attempt, the outcome could have been better than 11-1.
Ogier pinched the fourth 11-6 but Stacey rekindled his winning ways for the last two ends, settling the finale 11-5 with a fine winning shot.
‘Finally got it – it feels amazing and it’s the one that I’ve always wanted to win,’ Stacey said.
‘I’ve been trying to get all the age groups and I had the U21s and I wanted to get the men’s, but I’ve always been pipped to the post.
‘Credit to Phil, he played a fantastic match and made it very difficult.
‘I started off slow in the evening and my performances got better throughout the night, which is the best way, really.
‘It’s anyone’s game – the top five or top six players, anyone can come through and win it – glad I could pull through at the end.’
The women’s result was much less surprising if history is anything to go by.
Dawn Morgan, the most decorated singles player, celebrated her 22nd title against the other perennial contender, Kay Chivers.
The latest rendition of the Morgan-Chivers rivalry saw the former quickly rattle off two 11-4 wins. Chivers continued to battle hard and test Morgan, though, stealing the next end 11-9.
Morgan kept her patience and stubbed out Chivers’ challenge by going 11-7 and 11-3 to wrap up a five-set victory.
‘It’s always nice to win and you always go in knowing you’ve got to give 100%,’ Morgan said.
‘Kay and I, I dread to think how many times we’ve played each other and we know each other so well.
‘It’s always tight and I have a lot of respect for her and the way she plays.’
Morgan had made the final by beating the unseeded Rebecca O’Keefe, while Chivers defeated Island Games medallist Charlotte Casey.
It was Morgan’s second triumph of the day, adding to her earlier success over Mark Pipet in the over-50 singles.
Pipet, who boasts a nearly unprecedented 14 men’s singles titles from 2005 and earlier, had shown lasting quality with his third over-60s title in four years.
Pipet led from the start against top seed and defending champion Chivers, definitively shrugging off her challenge with an 11-3 victory in the sixth set.
Hainsworth continued his run of dominance in the restricted singles, a niche event for those who are over 21 but under 40 and have not played in the inter-insular Green Trophy in the last two years.
He picked up his sixth title in an event that was introduced just seven seasons ago, beating Lions C teammate Sam Clark in straight sets to seal the title.
Ben Foss won his third straight U21s title on Friday.