The English National Champs took place this weekend and I was going to provide a full write up of the events, but I decided you can read the results elsewhere and for me there was only really one huge story from the tournament.
And the story is Sam Walker!
Who is Sam Walker, I hear you ask? Well, I guess you could say he’s another of my “players-to-watch” but perhaps not for a couple of years yet.
Sam Walker is a 17 year old junior from England. He’s currently training in Germany with club, Zugbrucke Grenzau and is sponsored by Joola. He’s ranked #574 in the world and #82 on the world junior list.
However, he was playing like a top-class senior this weekend!
U21 Men’s Singles
Sam started off on Friday in the U21 event, seeded 6th. The event went completely to seeding until the quarter finals. The big favourite, Gavin Evans, lost to Lewis Gray while Sam got his first upset of the weekend beating the 2nd seed (and England #8) David McBeath, in three straight games. In the semi-final Sam beat 3rd seed Sean Cullen, also in three games and got the better of 4th seed Richard Andrews in the final! One national title and three unexpected wins for the 17 year old.
Saturday saw the start of the men’s singles and Sam had to start in the preliminary group stage due to his low ranking. He was seeded (if that’s the right term) in 22nd position. He won his group winning all matches 3-0. So far he has only dropped 2 sets and they were both in the U21 final! In the first round he faced Richard Andrews in a replay from yesterday’s final. This time he beat Richard 4-0 and really started to show his strength and confidence. Four unexpected wins!
His last 16 match up was a difficult one. The fourth seed and WR#233, Daniel Reed. Surely this was the end of Sam’s journey? Clearly nobody had told Sam that! He beat Daniel 4-2 and moved on to the quarter finals, a huge win for the 17 year old. Five unexpected wins.
The quarter finals were played on Sunday morning and Sam had drawn the talented Chris Doran. Chris is England number 6 and an extremely tough opponent. Sam went 3-0 down and it looked like his run was over until the comeback began! Surely but surely he clawed back ends until it was 3-3. He won the final set 11-7 to make it into the semi-finals! Six unexpected wins.
As far as I know this is pretty much unheard of! The 22nd seed making it into the semi-finals?! Every other match up until now had gone completely to seeding with seeds 1-3 joining Sam in the semis. Sam semi-final was against top seed Paul Drinkhall ,and even then he put up a fight, only losing 4-2.
And that was the end of his incredible run!
I’ve decided to have an estimate of the effect of these results on Sam’s English ranking…
Current ranking = 24th (2811 points)
Points gained = 400+ bonus points
New ranking = 10th (3250+ points)
And what I find more exciting is that we may have found our future superstar from the next generation of players, as Sam is two years younger than Liam and five years younger than Paul, Darius and Daniel.
If you’d like to follow Sam Walker on Twitter, click here.