The English National Championship: One Step at a Time
(by Steve Hopkins)
The US Nationals are a massive event with a hundred tables and a thousand players collected in one huge room in the same week to compete across 80 or 90 events. The format of the US Nationals has been debated in recent years and, in fact, the format has been changed so that it is a little less wide open than it used to be. However, even with the tweaks – the inspiring awe of the huge room and the huge number of players has endured.
The English run their national tournament a little different. The Senior National Championship event invites only 32 players for their final event. However, England’s Senior National Championships Qualifying Tournament, which is running this week, looks a little more like the US Nationals. It is being played in a large room in Nottingham with 30 tables and about 100 competitors.
The competition is set up with qualifying rounds with the top group finishers progressing to knockout rounds. In Women’s Singles, 16 women are now battling it out in the knockout rounds, and in Men’s Singles, the number is 32 competitors. In that Men’s event, there will be five rounds. At the end of this week’s event, the field will be ranked from top to bottom. The country’s top players have already qualified for the Senior National Championship event by ranking. The top finishers from this weekend will fill in the remaining spots (it is most likely that 10 men and 10 women will move on – this can vary depending upon injuries and withdrawals).
If one accounts for the size difference between our countries, there are more similarities than differences between the English and US versions of a National Championship. The main difference is that in England, the Senior Qualifying event and the Junior Qualifying event are held at different times – and that after those qualifiers have occurred, each has a final event on another day with only the top 16-32 players present. That is, the English version consists of events held at four different times – and the US version packs all of that excitement into one big event – and, in addition, the US version also adds other rating events so that our mass of players competing over that week have other tournaments to entertain. In the end, there are different tracks at the US Nationals that are not unlike the events in England – including allowing our top players to be seeded into the main draw and to receive byes that allow them to concentrate on later rounds.
If you’d like results from this qualifier, visit tabletennisengland.co.uk. Visit ButterflyOnline.com next month to hear about the results in England’s Senior National Championships final event. That event will occur in the same arena in Nottingham from February 28 – March 1 and it will include the English player names that we are familiar with: including Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford.