Sam Walker ends England's 25-year wait for international doubles title
Table tennis: Worksop's Sam Walker has become the first English player to win a doubles title on the international circuit since the advent of the ITTF World Tour in 1996.
Walker and his Swedish partner Truls Moregard lived up to top seeding at the Czech Open in Olomouc as they defeated French duo Leo de Nodrest and Lilian Bardet 3-2 (10-12, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7).
Walker had become only the third English player to reach a Tour final and, although this event is a lower tier than the Platinum Qatar Open final which Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall reached in 2020, it is still a piece of English table tennis history for Walker.
They had a couple of other close matches on the way, defeating Russian pair Aleksandr Tiutruimov and Sadi Ismailov 3-2 (11-9, 7-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-5) in the first round and Snehit Suravajjula and Jeet Chandra of India 3-2 (8-11, 15-13, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4) in the semi-finals.
Walker said: "Just winning any international open is amazing - I've never won anything like that, so it's really good.
"We played really well in the first match against the Russians, which was a tough match, a really good doubles match, and it just went from there. For some reason, we've been good in the last set.
"It's nice to play with Truls because he's relaxed about it and he's got really good quality, especially on his serve and receive. His character's good and in the first round we said to just enjoy it - and that's what we did."
In the mixed doubles, Walker & English team-mate Tin-Tin Ho beat the sixth seeds Samuel Kaluzny and Ema Labosova of Slovakia 3-1 (11-8, 4-11, 11-9, 15-13) on their way to reaching the quarter-finals.
There, Moregard was in opposition and he and compatriot Linda Bergstrom prevailed over the English pair 3-2 (9-11, 11-7, 24-22, 9-11, 12-10).
Walker unfortunately lost in the first round of the singles as Suravajjula beat him 4-2 (5-11, 3-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-4, 11-8).
Walker is also delighted to get some matches under his belt after a difficult first half of the year and added: "The main reason for not being at the top of my game recently is not having that run of matches.
"I lost in the singles after winning the first two games and feeling comfortable, but the Indian guy (Snehit Suravajjula) played really well and that lack of match sharpness meant I let it slip.
"Getting the matches in the doubles has really helped - they are still matches and it's good to get those under my belt ready for the season."