IT has been 14 years since the last champions were crowned in a Namibia Table Tennis Association-sanctioned tournament in Swakopmund featuring the full line-up of under-18 and senior divisions.
However, on September 10 the sport re-established itself in the coastal town with the inaugural annual NTTA Coastal Open Championships at the Namib High School Sport Hall. The turnout of junior and adult players was inspiring, promising to be a well-contested and enjoyable competition for all participants, which was underlined with the sun finally breaking its cover around mid-morning and initiating what was to be a beautiful day.
The competition in Swakopmund was a good opportunity for the participation of some new players in the U/18 and senior categories, as well as some of the more established players on the circuit. Like current NTTA Boys U/18 No.1 Jacob Machleidt and eight of the top 10 ranked players in the senior category. The championship is a NTTA Category C tournament and as such the tournament was carried out with an initial round-robin format round, with two groups each for the boys U/18 and senior categories. The U/18 category had with a three-set must and senior a five-set must system, with the top four and top two players, with the most sets won, from each group going through into knockout final stages in the U/18 and senior groups respectively. In the boys’ singles section Jacob Machleidt and Björn Baas, both students at the DHPS in Windhoek, as well as Darren Strauss and Chief Thomas, both from West Side High in Swakopmund, managed to secure their place in the semifinals after excelling in their respective group stages.
Machleidt endured to beat his opponent, Chief Thomas, in a very closely contested semifinal in five sets with the fifth set going to extra points, to ensure his place in the final. In the singles final Machleidt faced off against Strauss, who had triumphed over Björn Baas over four sets. The final was fast paced and dominated by Machleidt, ending Strauss’ dreams of winning the championships after three straight sets. Although victory was denied to him in the singles, Strauss fought his way to victory in the boys’ doubles section with his partner Thomas, taking top spot in the group section over the tournament favourites Machleidt and Baas.
Unfortunately only one girl entered the tournament, Anna Weber of Namib High, making it impossible to have a separate girls’ section, reflecting the prevailing situation in the adult section. Weber, as a result, took part in the boys’ section to gain experience and have the opportunity to enjoy the event as well. Weber was awarded ranking points in the national girls’ ranking for her participation. Swakopmund players Erhard Roxin and Charl Carelse, both debuting at this tournament, showed great enthusiasm and a very high standard of play against their counterparts from Windhoek, giving the more established players a serious run for their money in their quest for the title. In the end, however, the players from Windhoek dominated the group stages, with Heiko Fleidl going through to the semifinal, after winning his group stage ahead of current No. 1 Bastian Hüster, to take on his fellow club member Christa Mrozek, who had gone through in second position in her group behind group winner Theo Beukes, in the first semifinal of the senior singles division. Mrozek proved too strong for Fleidl, making short work of the match in three straight sets to secure her place in the final.
The second semi, contested between Beukes and Hüster, was not so one-sided. Each set was fiercely contested, with Hüster taking the early lead with two sets to one. Beukes, however, persevered and turned the match around to first draw even and then take the fifth and final set 11-9.
The final was a match of strategy, patience and sudden attacks, mostly instigated by Beukes, with determined defensive play and consistency on the part of Mrozek, with no indication of clear dominance being demonstrated by either player in each of the sets contested. In the end, defence, consistency and tournament experience triumphed over offence, allowing Mrozek a 3-1 win over Beukes. Mrozek and Beukes then joined forces to win the doubles title ahead of Hüster and Fleidl. Even though the winner of the recently held SKW Open Championships Hüster was not able to take the title at this tournament, he managed to bolster his lead over Theo Beukes, who regained his # 2 spot, by over 100 ranking points to retain the NTTA #1 ranking. Jacob Machleidt also increased his lead significantly with his second tournament win in a row. All NTTA ranking lists and NTTA information such as upcoming events can be viewed at Namibia Table Tennis Association Facebook Group.