Third best Dane/best FIR President, Kresten Hougaard used his bank holiday Monday productively to join Jermaine Manners and Ed Batson as the only players to win their debut UK Tour elite event. With usual scribe James Pope spending a more traditional lazy bank holiday weekend avoiding Storm Katie, it is over to Oliver Oxland to bring us all the details from the Essex Event.
Easter Bank Holiday Monday kicked off with the annual hosting of the Essex Open at Redbridge Sports Centre, organised by the iconic Dave Lazarus. The event attracted a near record turnout of 51 players, split in to A, B, C & Junior categories. A & B categories were played to 15 up, with the other two categories being 11 up.
Regulars Bash It Out in Elite Category
The A category commenced with some interesting first round matchups, most notably Keith Lesser vs Mark Steeden, in what was a rough opening round draw for both parties. Lesser took the opening 2 sports 15-7 & 15-9 before Steeden mounted a good comeback in the squash winning 15-2 in what was a gruelling match with nearly every rally lasting 15+ shots. Heading in to the tennis it was winner takes all- Steeden taking an early 4-1 lead before Lesser rallying well to eventually close out victory 15-11 in the tennis. Other notable first round matches included Kevin “newly shaved head” Neville against Johnny Bispham. Neville lost the first 2 sports 11-15 & 8-15 before winning his favourite sport squash 15-2. The tennis was mightily close, with Neville eventually winning on a Gummi- arm to clinch his place in the last 8, to the dismay of Bispham. Oxland vs Mauroy was another interesting first round tie with Mauroy taking a 15-8 lead courtesy of the table tennis, before going 14-11 up in the badminton, only to eventually lose 16-14. The momentum seemed to have swung in the opposite direction with Oxland closing out victory 15-9 & 15-3 in the squash & tennis respectively. Other first round mentions go to Jack Bishop who upset the apple cart by beating former semi finalist Mark Green, who always looks at home playing at Redbridge. Bishop winning 5-15, 15-5, 15-5, 6-7. World top tenners Kresten Hougaard & Duncan Stahl recorded comfortable wins in their respective first round matches.
The quarter finals kicked off with comfortable wins again for Stahl & Hougaard over Jack Bishop & Marc Thornley respectively. Two Essex County team mates Kevin Neville & Keith Lesser also clashed in the last 8, in what was expected to be an interesting match. Neville however let the cheering crowd down, succumbing 4-15, 11-15, 5-15. Lets hope they make up in time for the Counties on Sunday!
Du Noyer vs Oxland: Tie of the Day
The tie of the quarter finals however was evergreen Alex Du Noyer vs Oliver Oxland. The table tennis started with both players very conservative, albeit with a fair amount of quality, Oxland eventually winning 15-9. Du Noyer then took a +5 lead by playing a very solid badminton match, winning 15-4. The real drama however came in the squash in what was an absolutely gruelling duel lasting around 30 minutes. Du Noyer started strongly and was in real control leading 13-11 before Oxland, staged an 11th hour fightback courtesy of a miraculous lunge volley & two fortunate crosscourt forehands. Both players near the end of the match were on their feet in what was a truely brutal match. Du Noyer started the tennis 3 ahead, needing 13 for the win & 12 for a gummi. He started well, getting off to a 4-2 lead before Oxland rallied to record a 15-9 tennis victory and with it, a +3 overall win.
The semi final lineup was Keith Lesser vs Essex Newboy Kresten Hougaard & Oliver Oxland vs Duncan Stahl. Lesser v Hougaard kicked off proceedings, Kresten winning the table tennis 15-10 & the badminton 15-13. Lesser then somehow managed to win the squash against all odds 17-15, meaning Kresten needed 11 to win in tennis. In what was a surprisingly close tennis match Kresten eventually got to 11 points just as Lesser was on 14- the tournament nearly had another Gummi- arm which would have no doubt left the huge crowds enthralled.
The other semi final involved a semi injured Duncan Stahl against Oliver Oxland. Oxland got off to a good start in the table tennis winning 15-8, before eventually closing out victory in the badminton & squash 15-10 & 15-11 respectively.
The climax of the Mens A event involved Essex Newboy Kresten Hougaard & fellow Essex team mate Oliver Oxland. The final was played up to 11 in all sports, due to strict time constraints imposed by Dave Lazarus. Oxland had a set point at 12-11 in the table tennis before Kresten eventually won 14-12. Kresten then carried this momentum on to win the badminton & squash respectively 11-8 & 11-4.
Stahl Dynasty Grows!
The B event featured newcomer Adrian Stahl, brother of Duncan. Adrian beating Simon Watkins & Elise Lazarus in the opening two rounds before losing to Joshua Ben in the semi finals. The event was played in a fantastic spirit all day long, with Joshua Ben eventually winning the B event, beating Jack Richard in the final 15-4, 1-15, 15-11, 15-8. Joshua Ben had a fantastic win in the quarter finals, beating no 2 seed Wilf Jessop +3 in a very tight encounter. Other notable mentions go to youngster Ross Wilson who lost in the quarter finals to Gary Pickering 4-15, 10-15 15-13, 1-2. The non-ranking C event was won by Thomas who beat Callum Higgins whilst Connor Green won the junior final.
Overall the event was a huge success, played in great spirit with some fantastic matchups. It was great to see so many new faces, including 3 of Kevin “newly shaved head” kids, Adrian Stahl, David Scriven , Nnamdi Onyeyiri & Connor Green (son of Mark Green). Next stop the Counties on Sunday, in what promises to be the best counties event ever!!!