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Event might move to bring more to the table

Organisers expressed satisfaction with the successful staging of the West of Scotland Open Grand Prix tournament over the weekend, but admitted that they may be forced to look for a bigger venue in future.

Upgraded to grand prix status for the first time, the long-standing event drew an entry of more than 100 ­players and a high calibre of competition which culminated in a superb men's singles final in which the locally-based Craig Howieson recorded a first career win over Gavin Rumgay, ­Scotland's leading player.

"It's been a terrific event," said Diccon Gray, the competitions and events manager for the English Table Tennis Association which runs the grand prix series. "The West of Scotland organisers have done a terrific job. The venue's excellent, [as are] the floor, the lighting, the lay-out and the ancillary facilities. We've had a great Scottish welcome."

While he thanked Glasgow Life for their support in providing those facilities, he said that they may have to look at how to accommodate more players as a result of the event's quality. "We are keen to have Scotland on board and have events throughout Britain," he said. "The British leagues are held throughout the home ­countries and we want to spread the grands prix as well.

"Apart from London, the greatest supporters of the English Grand Prix tournaments last year were the Scottish players. We will encourage more English players to come north of the border, but this is a slightly smaller venue with 16 tables; 18 tables is normally our minimum.

"We've had an upturn in entry for grand prix events which is very encouraging but has meant we have had to raise the size of the table capacity and if that happens here they have said they will move venue."

In competitive terms, London-based Rumgay's decision to travel north to take part was important for the event's prestige, setting up, as it did, the opportunity for a popular win in local terms. Howieson plays for the Drumchapel club which has been instrumental in transforming the profile of the sport in the west of Scotland and, in turn, getting this event to the level it has reached.

"Rumgay's a bit like a table tennis Rafa Nadal - he's never dead until there's a dagger in his heart - so it was a great final," Gray observed.

While there were some mixed emotions for Rumgay - he has won 24 grand prix events, whereas Sunday's win was a first success for his opponent - the Scottish No.1 was able to appreciate the wider implications in noting that the event's staging was significant for the game in Scotland.

"It's important to get a bit more recognition for the sport," he said. "You speak to taxi drivers, speak to anyone, everyone's played table tennis, but it's trying to get it to a higher level, starting off in schools and building through that the way I did in Perth, playing at the local community centre."

As the Scotland team seeks to sharpen up ahead of this summer's Commonwealth Games, the eight-time Scottish champion admitted that the defeat has the potential to add an extra edge to proceedings when they will be seeded to meet again as he defends his national title.

"That's a wake-up call for the Scottish championships in five weeks' time to get myself in gear," said the 29-year-old. "It will add an extra edge to the championships."

The focus at Scotstoun switches tomorrow as the three-day British Open Doubles squash tournament gets underway. Scotland's top two men's players will be in action as established No.1 Alan Clyne pairs up with his regular partner Harry Leitch, while Greg Lobban is teamed with Stuart Crawford.

Doubles is rarely played at any level in squash so the opportunity to play against international opposition is vital to Scotland's prospects of generating surprises at the Games.

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