At 57, Whitehorse’s Kevin Murphy is the oldest competitor in the gymnasium.
He has a shock of white hair and walks with a noticeable limp between points.
While maybe not as quick on his feet as he once was, he still has fast hands and knows how to hit the ball.
Murphy captured his 20th men’s singles title at the Yukon Open Table Tennis Championships on Sunday at Whitehorse Elementary School.
“I was just worried about playing the best I can and suddenly the win became a possibility after I won the third game,” said Murphy. “All of sudden it seemed like a tale of two different matches out there.
“Even going into the fifth game I thought Ryan (Bachli) would come storming back, but the pattern remained the same and I escaped – I won.”
Murphy pulled off a massive comeback to beat Bachli – the defending champ – by a score of 7-11, 2-11, 14-12, 11-7, 11-5 in the final.
Bachli, who was going for his fourth men’s singles title, had match point at 12-11 in the third before Murphy won three straight points to take the game. Taking the third game made Murphy feel “five years younger,” he said.
“One of things I tried to do was put a little more side spin on the service ball going into Ryan, take a little off his racquet strength. In other words, he’d have to account a little more for the side spin and it would put him a little more on the defensive and make some mistakes out of it.
“I just kept on doing it – it kept on feeling right – and it started producing results.”
“I had a lot of energy the first two games and then it just fell,” said Bachli. “I just died, had no energy left. I just slowed down and maybe that gave him a chance to do something different.”
“That was actually the first time we played all year. He and I haven’t really been playing – maybe we’ve seen each other three times this year.”
It was the eighth consecutive time the two met in the final. Murphy last defeated Bachli, 23, two years ago for the title.
Murphy let out a couple groans during Sunday’s final, but it wasn’t really clear if it was from a bad shot or pain in his hip.
“(I had) a hernia and it led into a hip problem, which has stayed with me all this time,” said Murphy. “I’m waiting to see a specialist to see what we can do, but in the meantime I limp.
“It’s tough to play the way you think you can, but you have these limitations. But sometimes you surprise yourself.”
The fight for third place also saw a two-game comeback.
Mark Preston fought back to defeat Daniel Li 10-12, 10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 in five games for the bronze.
The women’s singles final was less dramatic.
Whitehorse’s Christina Nie defeated junior player Grace-Anne Janssen 14-12, 11-4, 11-6. It was Nie’s third singles title having also won in 2010 and 2008.
Juniors Ashley Harris and Kelcy Armstrong fought it out for third with the former winning 11-9, 11-8, 5-11, 10-12, 11-5.
Though Armstrong finished behind her fellow juniors in the open women’s singles, she came out on top in junior women’s singles. Harris placed second and Janssen third.
“I’m kind of shocked because Grace-Anne is my match,” said Armstrong, 16, who was playing in her first Yukon championship. “It’s a tough competition playing Grace-Anne and I’m kind of shocked that I beat her – it’s like taking the next step in table tennis. I’m happy about that.”
After placing second last year, Arcel Siosan came out on top on Sunday in junior men’s singles. The 14-year-old went undefeated in four round robin matches to win his first Yukon title. Thomas Brenner placed second with one loss and Greg Murdoch claimed third with two losses.
“I feel amazing,” said Siosan. “The other players are really strong so I wasn’t expecting to be the number one. I’m pretty happy with the result.”
Janssen and Mingmin Yao won the women’s doubles title with a 11-9, 11-13, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5 over Harris and Ming Huang.
Taras Yurkin and Li teamed up to defeat Murphy and Bachli in the men’s doubles final 11-7, 9-11, 11-6.
“I started playing in about 1971 when my dad brought a table home,” said Murphy. “At the time I was in the Air Cadets and 1972 rolls around and there were Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse and I’m in the colour guard for when the governor general of Canada opens up the table tennis event at Takhini school. And I see a young girl playing the governor general … and I know the girl and I think, ‘I’m better than her.’
“I quit Air Cadets and joined table tennis that fall, and I haven’t stopped.”
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