Jamaica Gleaner / Yvonne Foster and Simon Tomlinson endured hard battles to reign supreme at an elongated final day of the National Table Tennis Championships at the G.C. Foster College for Physical Education and Sport.
Foster showed true grit to win her ninth national singles title, while Tomlinson clawed his way to his third win in a row. Foster outlasted Onika Francis 11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9, 11-7 to reach the milestone, while Tomlinson edged away from former national champion Kane Watson 11-7, 11-3, 11-3, 5-11, 11-7.
Foster, still just 24, came back from the brink of defeat in the semi-finals. Showing her experience, the 2014 Common-wealth Games representative escaped with a 3-2 win after trailing tall Brittany Murray 2-0. The title-deciding match started at 10:12 p.m., and her earlier exertions took a toll on her in the final when Francis stepped up the pace in game three. After that, the tall Foster negated the anti-spin backhand rubber used by Francis with clever topspin strokes.
Felled by spasms when the match was over, the nine-time champion confessed, “She played very well and I just went out there and did the best of what I could do, and I’m happy for the victory.”
Francis was impressed. “Yvonne is a very good player,” stated the 2017 Caribbean women’s team bronze medal winner, “so I just went out there and did my best.”
Tomlinson’s semi-final against Mark Philips became a topspin slug fest that ended 3-1. “Mark Philips, the rising star, kept a lot of pressure on me, but it helped me to get ready for the final,” he said. That encounter against Watson began at 11:20 p.m. Thankfully, it was a high-quality match that rewarded those who stayed to watch.
After a cautious first set, Tomlinson took control to grab a 3-0 lead. Watson, himself a three-time winner, used a shovel action forehand side spin serve to move to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set and won it 11-5. However, with a lengthy injury layout recently ended, Watson was not quite sharp enough to compete with his highly focused training partner and friend.
“We had to play very late, so I know Kane is a bit slow on his approach,” the happy Tomlinson observed, “so I took advantage of that.”
Tomlinson’s view of how the title was won and lost was eye-opening. He described the final as “a very tight game” and analysed the serve, the serve return, and the third ball as the key. “If I got slow on those three balls, I’d be in trouble.”
“That’s how I lost the fourth game,” he concluded.
The runner-up reviewed, “I tried, overplayed a bit, but I’m thankful to reach my sixth straight final and coming out injury-free. That’s the most important thing.”
“The sharpness is not there,” he agreed, “but I feel where it’s coming back, and I pushed myself, and I’m proud of my effort.”
The rural singles finals were laced with revenge. Jamaica representative Daydron Lewis repaid Francis for an earlier semi-final loss in the women’s singles. Merciless smashes gave Lewis a 3-1 margin over Francis. Similarly, recent Titchfield High’s Rajni Brown reversed his men’s singles quarter-final defeat by experienced left-hander Rudolph Sinclair 3 sets to 1.
Tomlinson teamed with 2017 Caribbean Region under-13 runner-up Solesha Young, winner of the under-13 and -15 categories, to win the mixed doubles event. Tsenaye Lewis took the under-11 girls singles, with Gari White, Azizi Johnson, Conroy Henry, and John-Pierre Daley taking the under-9, -11, -13 and -15 events, respectively. All four boys are teammates at the Supersonic Table Tennis Club in Kingston.