There was a strong presence of former Waterside players at the inaugural event (Hungarian Open) of the ITTF World Tour the rebranded name of the ITTF Pro Tour.
In the beautiful but cold Hungarian city of Budapest Ken Macleod, David McBeath, Matej Hamran and Hannah Hicks met a long way from where they had first met in Southampton. Hannah and David were there as players competing on the biggest stage of world table tennis while Ken was there as coach and Matej as umpire.
Hannah played Tamara Boros in her opening group which is an indication of just how far she has come since the early days and her first appearances in Hampshire tournaments. Hannah now trains with England in Sheffield and prior to that with Rowden Fullen at Bournemouth. No wins for Hannah in the Women’s singles but more good experience and later a win against Nagypal of Hungary in the U21 girls.
David also faced strong opposition in his Men’s Singles group in the form of France’s talented Simon Gauzy and Frane Kojic of Croatia. David started the group with an impressive win over Kojic and then raised many eyebrows by taking on Simon Gauzy over the table and taking the first 2 ends. Gauzy fought back and was just that bit more comfortable in the deep where he has great strengths at defence and switching to strong attack. Gauzy eventually beat David 4-2 but a strong performance by David against one of Europe’s rising stars.
Ken was the coach in David’s corner for the event and also advising Naomi Owen of Wales and Alice Loveridge of Guernsey.
Matej took centre stage on the televised show court on the saturday where he was the umpire for the Men’s Singles Semi-Final between Ma Long and Xu Xin of China. Ma Long emerged as winner as he continued his spectacular run undefeated on the Pro Tour and now World Tour.
All have now moved on from Waterside although still maintaining links, David and Ken visited in summer of 2011 for a training camp. There is also a strong possibility these 4 travellers will meet again at Waterside this summer for a training camp. The message to the new generation of players and indeed any aspiring umpires is clear if you have the quality you can follow in these footsteps!
By Ken Macleod