The University of St Andrews swept the board in the Men’s events at the SSS National Table Tennis Championships, with Michael Hahn and Prab Leelayudth becoming National Champions. The First Team had won a tough Scottish Premier Division this year and were hoping to become the first players from the University to win an individual title.
In the Men’s Doubles event, Hahn and Leelayudth were seeded second, having reached the Final before losing 3-2 in last year’s tournament. They reached the quarter finals without any trouble but then had a surprisingly close match against a pair from Edinburgh University, winning the first two sets comfortably before dropping form and losing two close sets, the pair then managing to re-find their form to close out the quarter-final in a comfortable fifth set. Ben Robinson and Jon Wong also reached the quarter-final stage before losing out to the eventual Bronze Medal winners.
Next up was Hahn and Leelayudth’s tough semi final against two former Scottish internationals. After having a slow start and being 7-3 down in the first set, the pair’s slight change of tactics proved fruitful as they won the first set 11-8. The second set was a very close affair, with the Edinburgh pair managing to win 12-10. The third set was again very close and a great forehand counter-topspin down the line from Hahn saw a 13-11 victory for the St Andrews pair. By this point, both Hahn and Leelayudth were completely on form and with a flurry of clever and varied serves, and powerful and consistent topspin play, the pair found themselves 10-0 up before closing out the match 11- 3.
The final was against the top seeded pair from Glasgow, who were also the top two seeds in the Men’s Singles event. Hahn and Leelayudth’s consistent attacking play managed to win a close first set 11-9. In the second set, the St Andrews pair were leading 9-7, however two slightly loose serves cost them dearly as they lost the next three points and eventually lost the second set 12-10. Both players were disappointed by the second set – which, in best of five matches can often be the most crucial – and this was obvious as the third set was won comfortably by the Glaswegian pair. The match looked lost as Hahn and Leelayudth were trailing by two points throughout the fourth set, however at 7-5 down, two canny serves from Hahn forced errors which saw them level at 7-all and allowed them to close out the fourth set 11- 9 to keep their hopes alive. The fifth and final set saw a very good start from the St Andrews pair, leading 5-3 at the change of ends. However, the Glaswegians managed to level at 7-all but Hahn and Leelayudth were not going to be undone, determined, with fist pumps and the customary shout of “Cho” echoing through the hall after each point, the St Andrews pair’s consistent attacking eventually closed the game and the match out with an 11-7 victory to win their first National titles.
In the Singles events, Leelayudth was seeded third and Hahn fifth, with both comfortably winning their initial groups with three 3-0 victories. The pair was joined in the last 16 group stages by Jon Wong who had also done well to win his group. Ben Robinson was unfortunate not to make it into the last 16, losing out 13-11 in the fifth set of a crucial match. Leelayudth managed to justify his seeding and reached the semi final stage, but Hahn lost a very close match against the fourth seed, a former Scottish international.
In the semi final stage, Leelayudth was up against the second seed, whom he had previously faced in the Doubles Final and a fierce performance saw him win a comfortable 3-0 match to take him through to the final and guarantee him a second medal. Despite leading throughout the first set, Leelayudth, facing the top seed, lost it 11-9. However, after winning a close second set, he eased through the third set to set up a 2-1 lead heading into the fourth. His Glaswegian opponent was on good form but Leelayudth was not to be denied his second gold medal, as his fierce attacking style proved too much for his opponent, winning 11-6 to take the title.
This was an excellent day for St Andrews, winning both Men’s titles against some strong and experienced opponents. Both Prab Leelayudth and Michael Hahn will be travelling to Nottingham in a few weeks’ time to compete in the British National Championships and on the back of these results, they will be looking to push some of Britain’s top players in an attempt to win more medals to add to those gained in Scotland.