This weekend sees the annual Maccabi GB Open Table Tennis Championships taking place at the new Harefield Sports Academy with up to 100 players competing for various categories of title.
This key event in the Jewish sporting calendar caters for all standards, ages and genders but ultimately on the day all eyes will be focused on the cornucopia of highly-rated and talented players in the men's open category of which many are nationally ranked and in some cases inside England's top 100.
Among these are last year’s finalists the laid back number one seed Ashley stokes, who is top 50 in England, and Dov Katz at No. 2, and who is ranked top 70 in England. The No. 3 seed is pocket dynamo Zak Zilesnick, the 14-year-old who last weekend became the national under 15 champion. Zilesnick, who is also ranked the 10th best junior in England, is capable of lifting the open senior title.
At number four is the ever popular Eli Baraty, who was recently ranked nationally in the top 70 but mainly concentrates his efforts on coaching being coach to Zilesnick and the powerful Guy Ben-Aroya, who, at 15 years is seeded 8 and ranked at around 20 in England as a junior. Ben-Aroya can beat anyone on the day this but this also applies to 17-year-old Rafi Maron seeded just below Ben-Aroya at No. 9 in the championships.
Mel Davidson, chairman of Maccabi GB Table Tennis, said: “There is a strong focus on our nationally ranked junior players who are seeded highly and this is based on their ranking not just because we are wanting to be nice. Their entry on the day is a good thing because players like them will help inspire other juniors to both improve or merely take the game more seriously, then who knows what can happen for Jewish table tennis. Of course there are many other juniors competing on Sunday who are also very strong but the ones mentioned are exceptional.
“We should not forget however that there are other well rated players competing on the day who although not juniors are still only in their 20's and these include No. 5 seed Matt Spiro and No. 7 seed Keith Lesser.” On the other side of the coin there is Ivan Lewis who is a veteran and is seeded seven. He continued; “I feel that it is a very open field this year and that any of the players mentioned, and maybe some not mentioned, could lift the title. We are expecting up to 200 people through the doors including players and spectators and everyone is welcome to come and watch for free. They will be treated to an extravaganza of table tennis from some of the best Jewish players in the country and it is a showpiece for the teams going out to the 18th Maccabiah in July.”