An epic battle between defending champ Kevin Murphy and 16-year-old upstart Ryan Bachli pushed the Yukon Table Tennis Championships well past the expected finish time.
It was a fitting finale.
According to Table Tennis Yukon president Dave Stockdale, most players had already gone home as the two whacked the ball at each other in the best of seven final in the men’s singles division.
Murphy, a local ping-pong powerhouse and coach for Team Yukon, came up against a serious challenge in Bachli, who is one of his players, and a veteran of the Canada Winter Games team.
When offered the choice between a best-of-five or best-of-seven, Bachli chose the latter, hoping he would outlast his senior competitor.
In hindsight, five games would have been the better choice.
After winning the first two matches, Murphy lost three straight to Bachli — that would have been the end of it in a shorter series, but Murphy came back, winning the last two with his back against the wall, and successfully defending his title as Yukon champ.
“He’s a very strong player,” Murphy said of Bachli. “Because I can’t match his speed, I have to play a counter-hitting style. It’s not my style, so it’s a really tension-filled game.”
Bachli won the junior boys division earlier in the day, as well as the junior doubles (with William Kennedy) and men’s doubles (with Ken Madsen).
Only the championship eluded him this year.
“I have to keep Ryan Hungry,” Murphy said with a laugh. He added that Bachli is improving all the time, and the experience of Outside competitions and a trip to a Chinese training camp last year, have really improved his game.
“Next year I don’t think I’ll hold a candle to him,” said Murphy.
The championships mark the end of Table Tennis Yukon’s season.
It’s been a crazy year for the club.
Last spring, it hosted the Western Canadian Championships as a Games test event, the club has grown in both officials and players.
“I haven’t seen these kinds of numbers since the early ‘80s,” said Murphy.
Stockdale concurs, and hopes the club, and the sport, can take advantage of the momentum created around the Games.
“It’s really stretched us — but it’s been tremendous — we really pulled it off,” said Stockdale.
It’s key for Table Tennis Yukon to continue to compete at these big events, he added, pointing to New Brunswick as a cautionary example.
After fielding a team in 2003, when it hosted the Games, the province did not have a table tennis team at the Whitehorse Games.
“I don’t want to go down that road,” he said. “I want that to be the legacy of the Games for table tennis… to be able to field these teams.”
The club will take a hiatus for the summer, with the exception of a trip to Edmonton to the National Championships at the end of June.
When the club starts up again in September, Stockdale and Murphy will be looking for young players to start preparing for the 2008 Arctic Winter Games, the team is especially short in the junior girls division.
2007 Yukon Table Tennis Championships
1st Kevin Murphy
2nd Ryan Bachli
3rd Steve Fecteau
Murphy holds on to his title for another year after defeating Bachli four games to three (11-8, 11-6, 4-11, 12-14, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6).
1st Christina Nle
2nd Edna Knight
3rd Eva LaHale
Nle defeated Knight three games to one to take the women’s title (11-6, 11-4, 17-19, 15-3)
Junior boys’ singles
1st Ryan Bachli
2nd Malkolm Boothroyd
3rd Ben Barrett-Forrest
Bachli, who also finished second in the men’s singles, defeated Boothroyd in three straight matches (11-8, 11-6, 11-3).
Junior girls’ singles
1st Zara Bachli
2nd Claire Abbott
3rd Anna Smith
Bachli defeated Abbott in three straight matches (11-4, 11-6, 11-3).
1st Ken Madsen and Ryan Bachli
2nd Steve Fecteau and Mehrnoush Mahdavi
3rd Kevin Murphy and Dave Stockdale
Madsen and Bachli defeated Fecteau and Mahdavi in three straight (11-9, 11-9, 11-4).
1st Claire Abbott and Zara Bachli
2nd Christina Nle and Julie Hawkins
3rd Eva LaHale and Wendy Boothroyd
Abbott and Bachli defeated Nle and Hawkins in two straight matches (11-8, 11-3).
1st Ryan Bachli and William Kennedy
2nd Malkolm Boothroyd and Ben Barrett-Forrest
3rd Claire Abbott and Zara Bachli
Bachli and Kennedy defeated Boothroyd and Forrest three matches to one (12-10, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8).