Aldershot always knew it was going to be difficult in the finals of the Willmott cup held at the Draycott Table Tennis Centre(Derbyshire) in June, and they were not to be disappointed. Almost all the players in the competition were ranked inside the top 150 within the country, many much higher than this.
All table tennis leagues affiliated to the ETTA are entitled to enter a representative team into the competition. Aldershot had qualified for the finals by winning their regional event by defeating local rivals Guildford and Bracknell back in November.
Aldershot got off to a bad start even before a ball had been hit. Squad member Dave Lloyd managing to full off the back of a lorry (!!) a few days before the finals, damaging his ankle and ruling him out of the weekends table tennis. Aldershot were represented by Robin Pretty and Graham Watts.
Each match against another league was played by two man teams, in a "Davis cup" style format. Each player having two games of singles and a game of doubles to give a total of five potential games.
Aldershot started the campaign against eventual winners Nottingham. This proved to be the hardest match of the day, Aldershot going down comprehensively 3-0. Graham losing to Adam Frost, Robin losing to Shaun Marples, and a doubles defeat, all without Aldershot even managing a single leg.
Next up for Aldershot were Bournemouth. The match started promisingly for Aldershot with Graham defeating Mark Butler 11-9 in the fifth leg. Robin then went on against England Junior Matthew Ware, who is already ranked inside the top fifteen senior players in the country. Despite a 3-0 win for Ware he did not have it all his own way, Robin's unorthodox style causing a few problems along the way. The doubles proved crucial, a tight game over four sets which could have gone either way, Aldershot losing out by three legs to one. Graham then had to defeat Matthew Ware to keep the game alive. The first two legs were tight with Ware having the edge in both, Watts took the third in another close leg but Ware took the fourth leg comfortably to give Bournemouth the 3-1 victory.
Aldershot were then matched against Ilford. Although Aldershot lost this match 3-0, the scoreline was quiet harsh. Graham was first on losing out to Didier Ngoma in four sets, there being very little to choose between the players. Robin then lost, also in four sets to Matt Spero in a game he could easily have won. Robin lost the first two legs on deuce before taking the third leg comfortably. At this stage Robin was dominating the game and built a comfortable lead in the fourth leg and looked the likelier winner, before Spero took a succession of points to steal the game on deuce. The doubles followed the same theme Aldershot losing out 12-10 in the deciding leg.
Aldershot's final match was against the Potteries. Robin lost the first game to the impressive veteran Brian Johns. The scores were then levelled as Graham comfortably defeated Paul Malkin. The doubles once again proved crucial, Aldershot losing out again in a tight five setter. Graham then took on Brian Johns and despite managing to take a leg he was constantly struggling to keep up with the experienced and wily Johns. Aldershot going down 3-1.
Despite not registering a match win both Graham and Robin thoroughly enjoyed the day's table tennis, and only in the first game of the day against Nottingham did we struggle to compete at the higher level. Nottingham went on to deservedly win the event, Bournemouth finishing in second place thanks largely to the undefeated Matt Ware.