By Toby Oliver
Eastbourne’s Josh Bennett won his first national title at the table tennis National Championships last weekend.
The 19-year-old won the mixed doubles title with England’s highest ranked female player and Bennett’s doubles partner at the University of Nottingham, Tin-Tin Ho.
The pair won the final 3-1 (11-4, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5) over surprise finalists, Emily Bolton and Alim Hirji.
En-route to the final, they beat top seeds Tom Jarvis and Maria Tsaptsinos in a highly contested match.
Bennett and Ho were able to come from 2-1 down to win 3-2 (8-11, 11-4, 3-11, 11-9, 12-10). They were 9-5 up in the fifth set only for Jarvis and Tsaptsinos to peg them back to get to 9-9.
Some quick, attacking rallies from both teams saw high-quality points with an excellent shot from Ho converting their second match point.
After the match, Bennett said it was: “Unreal, unexpected. It’s a great feeling, especially at 9 o’clock in the evening.”
On playing with Ho, he was full of praise: “Whenever I’m playing with Tin-Tin, you always feel you have a chance, we had to play really well to win it.
“I had never played doubles with her before, but I train a lot with her at university, that helps when coming into competition.”
Both Josh and older brother Jack Bennett qualified for the men’s singles knockout round with Josh coming up against six-time men’s singles winner, Paul Drinkhall.
Before the match, Josh was looking forward to the challenge: “It will be tough, but it will be a good match to go for. I’ll just go for it and try and enjoy it.”
Unfortunately, it was a level too high for Bennett as he lost 4-0 (11-3, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8) against a vastly experienced player.
Jack and Josh Bennett were also playing in the men’s doubles event together.
They reached the semi-final where they faced top seeds, Liam Pitchford and Drinkhall.
Despite taking the first set and a close second set, the top seed’s class saw through with the final score, 10-12, 12-10, 11-4, 11-5.
The quarter-final against Adam Nutland and Ethan Walsh went the distance with the Bennett’s saving two match points before taking the fifth game in a nail-biting finish.
They finally took the match 3-2 (7-11, 13-11, 11-8, 9-11, 12-10).
They’ll both be hoping to return to the nationals next year, Josh as a defending champion.