Andrew Baggaley goes in search of a fourth English National Table Tennis title this week, and says nothing less than victory will do.
Baggaley turned 30 on Tuesday and is hoping to leave Sheffield with some fresh winning memories, having last won the men’s singles crown in 2010.
That was a third English National title for Baggaley, who first played his way to glory in 2002 at the age of just 19. He had to wait six years to win again in 2008 though, and is determined not to endure another lengthy delay before coming out on top again.
“I’m going there to win it,” said Baggaley, who will meet defending champion Paul Drinkhall in the final if both players win through the four earlier rounds.
“It would be a massive lift for my season – a huge boost in the arm. But I don’t feel any pressure to win it. I’ve won it three times already which is a great achievement.
“Winning it once would be fantastic for most players, so I don’t think that not doing it again is a failure. But of course I’m going there to win.”
Baggaley’s first success in 2002 came as a huge surprise, even to him. At 19 he was the youngest player to claim the national crown and has forged an excellent career in table tennis since, culminating in his appearance at London 2012 last summer.
Standing in his way of celebrating his 30th birthday with a fourth title are Drinkhall – champion for three out of the last four years – and new kid on the block Liam Pitchford. However, Baggaley isn’t underestimating anyone.
“You never know what can happen,” he said. “You need to get through the first couple of rounds against the so called weaker players and then it’s the quarter finals.
“I’ll need to win through five matches to reach the final against Drinkhall because we’re on different sides of the draw. We know each other’s games quite well, so it would be a good final.
“I really want to win it and then I could celebrate my birthday even more.”