Judge’s Golden Fortnight

This time a fortnight ago, Table Tennis Ireland’s own Colin Judge was getting ready to embark on what would prove to be a career defining couple of tournaments in Spain and Germany. Beginning with the Spanish Open, an Irish group consisting of Colin Judge, Greg Keogh, Conor O’ Callaghan, Des Ryan, Paddy Vaughan & Tom Davis set off for Barcelona.

If you’ve been up to date with our recent articles you will see that the tournament in Spain immediately took a successful turn with Conor O’ Callaghan earning second place in the junior event, a commendable achievement. In the singles event our squad, after notable wins and unfortunate losses the Irish contingent was whittled down to just one man, Colin Judge. After facing match points in the semi-final against his team partner, Toledo of Spain (WR36) Colin came out on top 3-2, 12-10 in what was an extremely nervy encounter. In the final Colin was pitted against Benoit Besset (WR23) of France who had just beaten world number 7 Stephan Molliens. Another major battle ensued with Colin eventually coming out on top 3-2! A  Gold medal for Colin Judge!

The team event looked like it was almost a formality with the form that Judge and Toledo found themselves in. They swept through the opposition losing only 1 set along the way, eventually defeating a pair who on a normal day would have been tough opponents from Thailand, 2-0. A double Gold for Colin Judge!

Tom Davis, partnered with Lucas Carvahlo of Brazil, was also in the medals in Spain. After overcoming opposition from Puerto Rico, Japan and Spain, Tom and Lucas found themselves in the semi-final coming up against some of the World’s best in Class 10 from Spain. Unfortunately a win against Spain was one step too far for the young men and they lost 2-0 but took away their bronze medal.

The rest of the travelling Irish didn’t find themselves in the medals this time but performed to the best of their ability, gaining valuable ranking points & learning experiences to take home with them.

The group of Irish was then halved as Des Ryan, Conor O’ Callaghan & Greg Keogh headed home with their heads held high. For Colin, Paddy and Tom they were off to the German Open, which they knew would be a massive step up in terms of standard, as Germany is a Major Open rather than the Minor Open of Spain.

In Class 8, Paddy Vaughan had great joy putting up a fight against some of the world’s best. Paddy was able to bag a 3-0 win over Roy Van Den Berg (WR60) of Holland along the way. In the team event Paddy was paired up with Thomas Bouvais (WR5) of France. A phenomenal opportunity for Paddy to learn from one of the best players in the World and not only did he learn, Paddy and Thomas overcame the number 2 seeds and world ranked 8 & 11 team of Ross Wilson & Aaron McKibbin of GB. A quarter final was as far as it would go for the Irish and French combination but a great run and impressive performance from these two guys. With Paddy’s classification to be reviewed in the New Year, and a serious possibility of being dropped to Class 7, there is genuine potential there for the young man from Kilkenny to be a real contender in Class 7 over the next number of years.

In Class 10, UCD’s Tom Davis was again at his best in Germany. With an early opportunity missed for Tom against Kodjabashev the world number 9, losing out 3-2, Tom had to regroup immediately. Needing a win to progress Tom stepped up and defeated Igor Mistzal (WR18) of Poland 3-1. A significant win for Tom and a place in the quarter finals. Unfortunately after having 2 set balls to take his quarter final to the fifth set Tom was unable to convert and went down 3-1 to Radovic (WR12) of Montenegro. Moving on to the Team event, Tom Partnered with Martin Lund of Denmark. After a close battle with the eventual silver medallist Russia, Tom and Martin need a win against a strong Poland/Holland/Brazil combination in which Tom was the eventual hero winning the final match against Claudio Massad of Brazil the world number 25. Unfortunately Tom and Martin couldn’t go any further in the team event and lost to the team of Kodjabashev & Radovic 2-0 in the semi-finals. A bronze medal was nothing to be sniffed and a significant step up from the medal in Spain. Congratulations Tom!

Saving the best for last, in Class 2 Pingzone’s Colin Judge, the newly crowned Spanish Open Champion was hoping to repeat his form from the previous week. Colin was pitted with a tough task as he has the similarly ranked world number 22 and world number 3 in his group! Colin wasn’t to let that hold him back and he erupted onto the scene in Germany with a victory over the World Number 3, 3-2! He then backed up the previous win over Oleksander Yezyk with another, and topped his group! Progressing to the Quarter Finals, Colin was up against the World Number 6, Jiri Suchanek. In what seemed to be the only way Colin knew how, he again progressed with another scalp in a nailbiting 3-2 victory. Colin, riding on this new found form was able to confidently overthrow the world number 12 Martin Ludrovsky 3-1 in the semi-final. Finally, Colin was up against Vincent Boury, a two time Paralympic gold medallist and current world number 11. This didn’t faze the co. Dublin man as he steamrolled through Boury in a convincing fashion, 3-0! Colin Judge was the German Open Champion!!

In the team event, The quadruple was on, Colin was going for four golds out of 4. This was finally the time Colin’s amazing result came to an end. At the semi final stage, after defeating Ludrovsky one more time, Colin and his Russian partner fell at the hands of Poland. A 2-1 loss, and an agonising one at that as Colin led the world number 2 Rafal Czuper, 2-1 and 7-5! What would have been the perfect ending to a maginificent couple of weeks didn’t quite happen but it can only leave Colin hungry for more. With wins over world ranked 3, 6, 11, 12 (x2), 22, 23, 36 over the fortnight, it’s fair enough to assume Colin will now move into the World’s elite and take his place among the top 10 Class 2 players in the world, come next month’s ranking list.

TTI’s president Ken Strong had the following to say regarding Colin’s achievements, “I am delighted to congratulate Colin on his excellent performances to win Gold at the Spanish & German Para Opens. This performance undoubtedly surpasses all his previous performances in international events. Congratulations also to Colin’s coaches. Best wishes for future successes.”

From all at Table Tennis Ireland, we would like to commend Colin and the other Irish players for a phenomenal performance over the two weeks, in which they did themselves, their families, their Coaches, their clubs and Table Tennis Ireland proud. To finish, here’s what newly appointed Para Coach Gavin Maguire had to say about the special fortnight, “It’s been a fantastic couple of weeks working with this young team. Between Conor winning medals at junior level, Tom winning team medals at both events, the rest of the team’s performances and Colin’s individual successes in Spain and Germany, it no doubt underlines the massive potential our Para Squad have with regards to not only qualifying for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics but performing at the games!”

For a more details breakdown of the happening’s in Spain in Germany check out our twitter page @TableTennisIRE or go to www.ipttc.org