First senior national title for Sam Walker

Worksop’s Sam Walker bounced back from Under 21 singles disappointment, to land his first ever senior national title last weekend.

The 18-year-old was in action at the English Table Tennis Championships at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, starting his campaign with the Under 21 singles.

Sam Walker ETTA Nationals Sheffield, 28th Feb 'Ponds Forge

Sam Walker ETTA Nationals Sheffield, 28th Feb 'Ponds Forge

Walker eased through his group without dropping a game, before dispatching Dominic Sussex 3-0 in round two.

Sean Cullen put up a good fight against the former Valley student in the quarter-final, but also fell to a 3-0 defeat.

And in the semi-final Helshan Weerasinghe was 2-1 up before Walker came back to win the last two games 11-4 and 11-8.

This brought a final clash with the highly rated Gavin Evans, who got the better of Walker, winning 11-8, 14-12 and 13-11 to lift the Under 21s trophy.

Sam Walker ETTA Nationals Sheffield, 1st March Sheffield 2014'Ponds Forge

Sam Walker ETTA Nationals Sheffield, 1st March Sheffield 2014'Ponds Forge

A devastated Walker, top seed for the competition, told the Guardian: “I didn’t play my best match.”

“I thought I fought quite hard and I was a bit unlucky.”

“I’m glad I got through the semi-finals because that was a tough match.”

“I made a few too many mistakes in the final.”

ETTA Nationals Sheffield, Sunday 2nd March 2014'   Sam Walker

ETTA Nationals Sheffield, Sunday 2nd March 2014' Sam Walker

Saturday saw the teenager bounce back in style however, as he reached the sem-finals of the mens competition, and won the mixed doubles with his 15-year-old partner Tin-Tin Ho.

In the mens singles Walker was denied a place in the final by England’s number two player Paul Drinkhall, who played some of his best table tennis in a 4-0 win.

But both Walker and his partner erased the memories of Friday night’s disappointment – Ho having lost the girls Under 21 final – in the mixed doubles.

They started in a positive fashion with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Abbie Milwain and Jack Dempsey before also seeing off the left-hand/right-hand youth/experience combination of Mike O’Driscoll and Yolanda King.

In the bottom half of the draw Walker and Ho pulled off a shock 3-2 win over previous champions Paul and Joanna Drinkhall, booking a place in the final against David McBeath and Emma Vickers.

Walker and Ho burst out of the blocks into a 5-1 lead but were pegged back in two spectacular rallies, first at 9-6 when Vickers’ read of the play allowed her to steal in a sharp forehand to an open table, and then secondly at 10-8 when McBeath fired a lovely forehand straight down the line.

However, despite their best efforts a fast spin serve from Ho meant the younger duo stole a 1-0 lead with a tight 12-10 game.

There was a tense start to the second end with neither pair able to gain momentum until Walker and Ho raced through seven consecutive points to accelerate from 2-3 to 9-3 – effectively securing a 2-0 lead.

Soon after, the match was over as the losing Under 21 finalists avenged their fruitless Friday with a storming Saturday by sweeping the third game 11-4 and earning a maiden success in the Steel City.

Capping a fine weekend, Walker reached the semi-final of the mens doubles with partner Danny Reed.

The youngster tweeted: “Pretty good weekend overall.”

“Great to come back after Friday’s disappointment.”

Walker is hoping that his performances will be good enough to impress selectors for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.