Debbie inspired to repeat Potters triumph

David Rhys-JonesDebbie Stavrou became the third player to retain the WBT Women's World Match Play title at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea yesterday.Previously, the only players to win back-to-back titles in this event were Carol Ashby and Ellen Falkner, both of whom lost out in the early stages this year.David Rhys-Jones

Debbie Stavrou became the third player to retain the WBT Women's World Match Play title at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea yesterday.

Previously, the only players to win back-to-back titles in this event were Carol Ashby and Ellen Falkner, both of whom lost out in the early stages this year.

Stavrou, who is 36, extended her hoodoo over Guernsey's British Isles indoor singles champion Ali Merrien yesterday, beating the 35-year-old Channel Islander in this competition for the fourth year on the trot.

It was an entertaining final - though both players admitted they have played better - with some sensational bowls as well as some scrappy deliveries that suggested that both players had failed to pick up the pace of the rink.


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After returning a 9-7 5-9 2-0 card, Stavrou, who lives in High Wycombe and plays for the Desborough club in Maidenhead, said. 'I can't believe I've beaten Ali, who's a brilliant player, and won the title again. I'm so happy - this second win is just as sweet as the first.'

Referring to a stroke of luck that gave her the first set, she added: 'We all need a little bit of help sometimes!'

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She added: 'I was well aware that Ali had come here on a mission, and that she was determined to win - and I sort of knew that it would go to a tiebreak. I was taking deep breaths, and telling myself to keep going.'

Admitting that she felt inspired when at Potters, Stavrou said: 'It's such a special place - the rink, the audience, the whole presentation makes it such a great experience. It's unique, and you just want to keep coming back.'

On the ninth end of the first set, Merrien held two good shots when Stavrou stood on the mat to deliver the last bowl, and the England skip unleashed a rocket, more in hope than expectation.

Off-target, she pushed one of Merrien's short bowls into the head, and the jack flew to the back of the rink where Stavrou had two bowls waiting, and the lucky conversion gave her the set.

Old heads in the players' lounge nodded wisely, and suggested Merrien had played the wrong shot with her last bowl - instead of drawing another shot, she should, they said, have slotted in a positional bowl at the back of the rink.

Merrien moved up a gear and controlled the second set, though Stavrou scored the first two shots, before Merrien pounced with a devastating 1-3-2 sequence to lead 6-3, and took the set 9-5.

Appearing to be 'in the zone' at this stage, Merrien unaccountably slipped up on a nervous first end in the tiebreak, allowing Stavrou to claim an easy shot, and she was unable to stop the holder scoring the winner on the next end.

Stavrou, who was the top skip in the international series in Belfast last year, is looking forward to helping England's challenge for the British team title in Perth in Scotland in March.

Meanwhile, Merrien, the world number two outdoors, is heading Down Under to play in the Australian Open, and the World Cup, which she won last year, before, she hopes, heading Guernsey's challenge in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

In the main event - the open singles - John Price emerged the winner of an all-Welsh third round encounter, when he defeated the number seven seed, Jason Greenslade, 9-7, 9-6, and will play Scotland's rising star Stewart Anderson today for a place in the semi finals.

Greg Harlow, the number five seed, managed to quell the challenge of 19-year-old Aussie Ben Twist, winning the first set easily enough, 10-5, but being hard pushed to take the second, 9-7.

In today's quarter finals, Price faces Anderson, and Harlow takes on the number four seed Paul Foster, while Exeter's Rob Paxton meets Ireland's Jonathan Ross, and Nick Brett, from the City of Ely, challenges former world number one David Gourlay.

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