Paul Drinkhall wins 7th National Singles Title!

Welcome to the latest Bribar Table Tennis blog. We are delighted to catch up with 7 times National Champion Paul Drinkhall fresh from his singles and doubles titles at the recent English National Championships. In this blog, Paul takes us through his matches on the way to winning the singles and doubles at this years event! As usual, Paul is pretty down to earth about his play at the event and his achievements over the years…

No matter how long you’ve been on the circuit, no matter what else you may have won, and if you’ll forgive me for saying, no matter how many times you’ve been on the top of the podium before, there’s always something really special about becoming National Champion!

After not finding my best form last year, I wanted to come into the competition having done what I could do to help me have the best chance of playing well this time around; it’s been a heavy schedule competing internationally lately and I’ve played well in patches but not quite found my best form really either.

Being fully fit and injury free certainly helps, and I decided to focus on two events, the Singles competition, and the doubles with Sam Walker my England teammate. Being seeded, you have the advantage of starting in the last 16, and avoiding any group matches or preliminary rounds; this can be a double-edged sword if you’re a slow starter but brings the advantage of being fresher than your opponent.

My first singles match was against Ralph Pattison, who is the number 1 ranked Junior in England. It’s always interesting playing the up-and-coming young players, as they have nothing to lose and can open up and really have a go at you without any fear or having a great deal to lose. Although I lost the second game, my focus was good, and I was able to win 4-1 to move into the Quarter Finals, against another relative youngster in Toby Ellis, a highly ranked Under 21.

I was able to win this match 4-0, although I remember being well behind in the third. Sometimes, that’s when the extra experience really counts, and I was able to come back to win 12-10 and with a 3-0 lead, it’s a difficult one to come from for a younger player. One element that impressed me about Toby was that following the match, he told me he really wanted to try to make a future in the game and asked me if I could offer any advice – just the right attitude for a young player to have.

This set up a semi final clash with Sam. We’ve been team mates now for so many years, we know each other’s styles and strengths and weaknesses inside out, and on paper I was favourite, but these factors can negate that, that’s for sure. Sam actually made the better start, and the first game slipped away quickly. Playing to 11, this is something you shouldn’t worry about, as there’s still a lot of table tennis to be played. Time to re-focus!

I felt strong, quick, I was moving well, and I trust myself to be able to come back. We played some good rallies, but I felt strong winning the next two games 11-9 and 12-10, feeling I was starting to impose my game onto Sam. He played some great table tennis to win the 4th and bring it back to 2-2 in a game that seemed to go on forever, with so many deuce points – psychologically they are always hard to lose!

Despite losing this game, I felt I was playing myself into better form, and I felt strong in the 5th and 6th games. I was able to get in early in the points with the first attack and managed to win the next two games to move into the final.

Onto the final – another familiar opponent, Tom Jarvis, who has established himself in the England Team over the last few years and has improved so much, starting to get results on the international circuit. He’s won it the last two years, and again we know each other’s games so well, so this definitely indicated this would be a tough match!

I started slowly in the first game, but once again, that’s where experience counts – I know not to panic. Working my way into the game, I saved several set points and managed to get a 12-10 victory. I felt strong and highly concentrated, and won the next game, before Tom fought hard to win the next two games to level the match. Tom’s a great competitor, always fit and sharp, so I wasn’t surprised at all by his fighting spirit.

Fortunately for me, I was absolutely in the zone, and felt very sharp – I was able to vary the play and impose my strengths more and more, and I felt I upped my level at the right time of the match and won the next two games – Senior National Champion for a seventh time!

It feels great to be English Champion once again. Now having seven, that moves me up to second on the all-time list behind the legend Des Douglas, and in front of some other prestigious players such as Denis Neale and my good friend Liam Pitchford, who was away competing in the WTT Champions event in South Korea.

Winning the doubles with Sam just put the icing on the cake of what was a fantastic weekend. The field was slightly weaker this year than it could have been due to some withdrawals, but this gave the opportunity once again for some of the young English players to shine, and I must give credit particularly to Larry Trumpauskas and Joseph Hunter who reached the final and snatched the third game from Sam and myself. If my memory serves me correctly, that’s 14 Senior Doubles titles – I’ll take that as a decent haul!

To celebrate Paul Drinkhall winning both the Men’s singles and Men’s doubles at the recent National Championships we are offering some great reductions on TIBHAR Drinkhall products! Sale ends 9am 2/4/24. Drinkhall Offers

Posted on 27th March 2024