Stacey hits his best to avoid history

JOSH STACEY successfully defended his island men’s singles crown and avoided the potential banana skin of being Guernsey’s shortest-reigning champion ever.

With this year’s Island Championships taking place less than six months after the Covid-delayed 2020 edition, some real deja vu ensued as Stacey lined up for a repeat final against enduring veteran Phil Ogier at the GTTA Centre on Saturday night.

But Stacey, seeded only fifth on league form, had to work extra hard to even get there.

After his seeding left him playing an extra preliminary compared to his rivals, he edged twin brother Lawrence Stacey in a six-set quarter-final, and top seed Ben Foss proved even more stubborn in their semi.

Foss won the opener and they traded blows from there, until Stacey sealed a seventh-set decider 11-5 with a fine winning shot.

That set up a final with Ogier, fresh from an entertaining six-set win over Paul Hainsworth.

Stacey opened fire by beating the second seed 11-6 in set one – but seven-time champion Ogier always rises to the occasion.

It ultimately proved a cracking final of dynamic play and ranged rallies aplenty.

Ogier stole the second game 11-4, limited Stacey to a two-point win in the third, then inched set four 11-9 as his opponent faltered to costly errors.

Stacey led out the fifth before losing ground in the middle, but he forced several errors to win that one 11-9.

Come the late stages of set six and Ogier was leading 10-8.

A seventh-set decider looked unavoidable. But that would be underestimating Stacey, who rattled off four successive points, from some superb shots to Ogier’s match-losing blunder.

‘I’d have been a really short champion if I’d lost – I thought I’d hold onto it a little bit longer,’ Stacey said.

‘I had a really hard run and I knew it was going to be tough going into it, just because of the draw and my seeding.

‘I thought I’d have to play my best table tennis to come through it.

‘Tonight, I showed up really, compared to how I’ve been playing in the league, so it’s good to save my best for the big occasion.

‘Credit to Phil – he put up a massive battle. He needs to stop getting the ball back, basically.’

A second title for Stacey, but No. 23 for top woman Dawn Morgan.

Morgan’s dominance is not to be taken for granted – as a nail-biting seven-set final showed.

The women's singles final between Kay Chivers (left) and Dawn Morgan. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 29502188)

Beyond her advancing age and rheumatoid arthritis, the main thorn in her side is rival veteran Kay Chivers.

Morgan won the first set but Chivers really rattled her in the next three, playing some sharp shots and testing the reigning champion’s composure.

From the perilous position of 3-1 down, Morgan finally settled to win the next three sets 11-5, 11-6 and 11-5 as Chivers’ shots increasingly failed to hit the mark.

‘I would have liked to have been more attacking than what I was, but my hit wasn’t going,’ Morgan said.

‘Kay was playing really crisply... and I was thinking I’d have to do something to stop that.

‘It was just grinding it out really. You do what you have to to get the result at the end of the day, but I’m very pleased, having trailed, with coming back to win.’

Morgan had got there by beating Charlotte Casey in straight sets, and Chivers took five to get past Juliette Yeaman.

On Friday, in the opening over-60s singles event, Mark Pipet overcame second seeded Chivers in the final over five sets.

The shock result of the event was an excellent straight sets win for Third Division player Mark Windsor over third seed and GTTA president Derek Webb.

In the restricted singles, which excludes players who have competed in the Green Trophy Inter-Insular event during the past two seasons, Paul Hainsworth made it title number seven courtesy of a straight sets win over third seed Jamie Ferbrache.

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