The annual Northumberland Championships, part of the Badminton England Senior Gold Circuit, saw some 80 of the best players on the circuit congregate at the Tyneside Badminton Centre, with 41 entries in the Open Singles the most for some time. The strong Open Singles field featured 8 ‘A’ graded players, 4 of the top 20 in England and two former winners in Dinuka Karunaratne (2022) and Jamie Pearcey (2023).  

The highlight for the locals was the mixed doubles where Northumberland’s top pairing of Josh Young and Lucy Dodd, the latter recently crowned U17 National Mixed Champion, retained their title but not without some alarms along the way.

Seeded ‘3/4’ they won their quarter-final against Steven Andrews, ex-Durham but now Northumberland, and Rachel Vickers of Cheshire in 3 sets, their reward being a semi-final against the second seeds, Yorkshire’s James Youle and Katherine Arksey. They lost the opening set narrowly 21-19 but rallied to take the second 21-18. There was never more than 3 points in the decider and Josh and Lucy fought back from 16-18 down to lead 19-18 and then reach match point at 20-19. That slipped by though and the Yorkshire pair reached match point themselves at 21-20. A good rush from Josh saw the shuttle back in his hands and he served out to take it 23-21.

The final saw them up against top seeds Jonty Russ of Sussex and Magda Lozniceriu of Avon. Josh and Lucy took the opener comfortably enough 21-15 but their opponents upped their tempo significantly in the second to lead 5-0 and then 11-4 at the interval before taking the set to 12. Undaunted, Josh and Lucy got an early lead in the third and held it to lead 11-8 at the change of ends. That became 13-12 but a decisive run of 4 points on Josh’s serve stretched the lead to 5 and they held on well to take it 21-14, thus retaining the title they won in 2023.

There was more success for Lucy who won her semi-final of the Women’s Doubles with Sophie Watson from Leicestershire in three sets before going down in straight sets in the final.

In the singles, Philip Pahatouridis reached the quarter finals, if only just, winning his third-round match 21-19 in the decider, before losing to second seed Felix Wright. Finlay Smith, Jamie Tinnion and Neville Baptist also made the third round, with Neville unlucky to meet the top seed Jamie Pearcey so early in the draw, losing a close 3-setter 21-18, 18-21, 21-15.

Pearcey could also consider himself unlucky to next meet Karunaratne, who prevailed in two sets after a close opener. The latter went on to beat Max Flynn of Kent in 3 sets to make the final where he was up against Wright, who had defeated Yorkshire’s Jamie Bonsels in his semi-final. The Sri-Lankan raced through the first set to 9 before Wright returned the favour 21-8 to level at one set all. The decider was more even but Wright led 11-8 at the turn and seemed to be edging towards victory at 16-11. Back came Karunaratne though to outlast his younger opponent and take the title 21-18. He was also victorious in the Open Doubles with Sachin Dias and the Women’s Singles was taken by Isha Mekala, a 14-year old from Wales, without the loss of a set. Surely a name to look out for in the future.

The finals on Sunday were line-judged by members of the Badminton Line Judges Association of England (BLJA of E) for the first time in many a year and it is hoped this will continue for future events.

Full Results:-

Open Singles:- Dinuka Karunaratne (Middlesex) beat Felix Wright (Surrey) 21-9, 8-21, 21-18;

Women’s Singles:- Isha Mekala (Wales) beat Charlotte Forbes (Cheshire) 21-13,21-7;

Open Doubles:-  Dinuka Karunaratne & Sachin Dias (Middlesex) beat Jonty Russ (Sussex) & James Youle (Yorkshire)  21-17, 21-16;

Women’s Doubles:- Anne Huscher (Worcs) & Magda Lozniceriu (Avon) beat Lucy Dodd (Northumberland) & Sophie Watson (Leics) 21-15,21-13;

Mixed Doubles:- Josh Young & Lucy Dodd (Northumberland) beat Jonty Russ (Sussex) &  Magda Lozniceriu (Avon) 21-15, 12-21, 21-14