Sam Walker pays for unforced errors as title dreams are ended

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Worksop’s Sam Walker rued unforced errors as he saw his dream of winning his first national men’s singles title ended for another year at least.

As he had last year, Walker lost in the final to No 1 seed Paul Drinkhall having beaten No 2 seed and three-time champion Liam Pitchford in the semi-finals.

Olympian Walker had high hopes going in to the PG Mutual National Championships, which were held close to home, at the University of Nottingham’s David Ross Sports Village.

Seeded three, he came through the early stages with no problems and then looked in great form against Pitchford, who he beat 4-1 (13-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6).

He twice led Drinkhall in the final, but saw his opponent turn it around to win 4-2 (9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-8) and claim the sixth singles title of his career.

“It’s disappointing,” said 21-year-old Walker. “I felt like I was playing well and in good shape. I went through with a good win against Liam and I had a chance in the final.

“At 2-1 and 7-4 up, I missed a couple of shots and that changed the match. He was serving well and I made some unforced errors and from then on he played well and managed to close it out.

“I’m obviously still motivated to win it but I’d rather it had been this year than next.”

There was further disappointment in the mixed doubles final, when defending champions Walker & Tin-Tin Ho were beaten by Paul & Jo Drinkhall, playing their first event together since winning Commonwealth Games gold in 2014, since when the couple have had two children. The score in the final was 3-0 (12-10, 14-12, 11-6).

In the men’s doubles, second seeds Walker & David McBeath were beaten in the quarter-finals by up-and-coming teenagers Tom Jarvis & Helshan Weerasinghe, the score 3-1 (11-7, 4-11, 11-7, 11-6).