Mixed doubles joy for Sam Walker in Nottingham
Sam Walker won another mixed doubles title at the Mark Bates Ltd National Championships, but was frustrated to again miss out on further titles to fellow Olympians Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall.
Worksop athlete Walker was back with Tin-Tin Ho in the Mixed and the top seeds duly lived up to billing to lift the trophy for the fourth time together, beating Chris Doran and Charlotte Bardsley 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 11-8) in the final.
The pair were the class act in the field, particularly as original second seeds Tom Jarvis and Maria Tsaptsinos withdrew because of an injury to Tsaptsinos.
After a bye in the first round, they beat Jack Bennett and Gemma in the quarter-finals and Alim Hirji and Emily Bolton in the semi-finals, both 3-0. Their final victory completed the feat of winning without dropping a set.
“We were heavy favourites, especially after Tom and Maria pulled out, but there’s still a job to do and we’re pleased to have done it,” said Walker. “It’s two years since we played together at the Nationals, so it’s nice to come back and get the win.”
Walker reached the Men’s Singles semi-finals with few alarms, beating Jack Bennett 4-0 (11-7, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6) in the last 16 and fellow England international David McBeath 4-1 (9-11, 11-8, 11-3, 16-14, 11-9).
In the last four, he took the first game against Pitchford, the top seed and defending champion, but Pitchford came back to win 4-1 (4-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8) to ensure the wait goes on for Walker to win that first singles title.
There was more disappointment in the Men’s Doubles final, where Walker and Tom Jarvis were defeated 3-2 (12-10, 11-6, 11-13, 9-11, 11-5) by Pitchford and Drinkhall, despite saving a match point in the third set. “I’m obviously disappointed,” said Walker. “There are some points to take on and keep working to improve. I am still improving and I’ve got more time until I hit my peak. I’ve just got to keep playing and training hard. I think me and Tom play quite well together but we’ve not played enough together. If we can get that close without playing much then when we’ve had more time together, we’ve got a good shot.” The championships were held at the David Ross Sports Village in Nottingham.