After losing in the finals the last two years, Whitehorse’s Kevin Murphy was back on top in men’s singles at the Yukon Table Tennis Championships over the weekend at Whitehorse Elementary School.
It’s a spot he’s quite familiar with. Sunday’s five-game win over two-time defending champ Ryan Bachli gave Murphy his 18th Yukon singles title.
“I wasn’t expecting to get it back, it really was a surprise,” said Murphy, who last year was playing with a strained abdominal muscle. “Last year I wasn’t 100 per cent healthy and this year I was in much better shape.”
Sunday was the fifth consecutive time the Murphy and Bachli squared off in the singles final.
The match looked to be heading towards lopsided victory for Murphy, capturing the first two games handily. But Bachli started to find his groove before, tying the match before losing 11-8, 11-4, 8-11, 13-11, 11-5.
“The last few months Ryan hasn’t been out to the club as much as he usually is,” said Murphy. “He’s a working man and sometimes his job interferes. So I knew his game wouldn’t be quite as sharp as it can be.
“(By the third game) his shots were starting the warm up and I knew that if I wanted to take it I’d have to bear down and get back into my Game 1 and 2 format.
“The difference between me and Ryan is that I’m more of a counter player – he takes the offensive lead. I wait for my openings and try to stretch him out around the table so he’s not in a comfortable position to make his patented big loops. I pushed wide on the table to increase the angle so it was tougher for him to come back and hit the table.”
Taras Yurkiv placed third with a four-game victory over Mehrnoush Mahdavi in the bronze match.
The women’s single division, which was not held last year, got a new champion. Xiu-Mei Zhang took the title with an 11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 13-11 win over 11-time champion Edna Knight.
It was Zhang’s first singles title at the Yukon championship.
“Each game was very, very close. Three games went to deuce,” said Zhang. “I’m excited. I’ve never won anything.
“More practice,” she added, when asked what made the difference this year. “In the past this was my hobby and I just come here to exercise. Each time I’d always lose… I started to do some psychology adjustment and I considered it a competition more for the first time.”
Myrna Bruns snagged third place with a straight-game win over top female junior player Grace Anne Janssen.
Taking the small junior boys division was Arctic Winter Games athlete Kyle Gonder, going undefeated for the title. Gonder, who also represented the Yukon at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, won a bronze in junior male doubles at the Arctic Games in March.
The rookie singles title went, fittingly, to a player competing in his first Yukon championships.
Jamie Phillips, 10, captured the title with an 11-5, 13-11, 11-7 win over finalist Eddy Gerberding in the final.
“I play at home with my dad and when I visit cousins in Toronto I usually play ping-pong,” said Phillips. “It was really fun. I thought there was going to be more people. I thought it was going to be really crowded.”
Finishing in third for rookies was Hassen Rajab with a win over Sana Syed, taking the match in five games.
Open doubles, which operated in a round-robin format, was so close with a three-way tie for first that counting games won and lost was not enough to determine a winner. Instead, organizers had to resort to counting points for and against.
After some addition and subtraction, Mark Preston and Mahdavi were given the title. In second were Bachli and Gonder, ahead of Murphy and Knight in third.
Other division winners include Bruns and Thomas Brenner in random doubles (in which partners are randomly assigned), Preston and Yurkiv in the Division A team event and Bruns and Greg Murdoch in the Division B team event.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com