Stowmarket’s Mark Royal set to play at Potter, ‘the Mecca’ of bowls’

Mark Royal

Mark Royal - Credit: Archant

Mark Royal begins his quest to win his first-ever World Indoor Singles title at Potters Resort, Norfolk, on Thursday (January 16).

The world number nine, who celebrates his 39th birthday on Saturday, takes on Gary R. Smith in Round One and, progress permitting, will face either five-time champion Alex Marshall, or Julie Forrest in Round Two.

Not that Stowmarket’s Royal, a semi-finalist in 2011, has taken much notice.

“I play Gary in the first round and he has played for England for a number of years, so I know that will be a tough match,” said Royal.

“I have not looked at the draw although I know I will play Alex Marshall or Julie Forrest next.

“I think it is likely that Alex will win that and if he does I will be confident as I have a good record against him over the years.”

Royal has already been in action at this year’s showpiece in Norfolk but failed to get the result he wanted as, along with England’s Scotish-born team captain Andy Thomson, he crashed out of the World Indoor Pairs Championship, losing to Commonwealth Games champion Robert Weale and Scottish ace Jonathan Ross, 9-7, 7-8, 2-0.

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“I am not in great form and I lost in the pairs, but I was quite happy how I played,” added Royal, who is ranked ninth on the World Bowls Tour

“It would be nice to pick up some ranking points but I am going to take one game at a time and I am not going to put any added pressure on myself.”

Stewart Anderson took last year’s crown, while Norwich’s Rebecca Field was the female winner.

Field, in particular is likely to have good backing at the event, along with Fakenham’s Mervyn King, but Royal is hopeful he will, once again, be afforded a warm welcome.

“Potters is the mecca of bowls and the World Championship is a fantastic event,” he said.

“It’s massive compared to anything else and the crowd can really lift you.

“I maybe enjoy a bit of extra support there, being relatively local, as do the likes of Rebecca Field and Mervyn King.”

Fellow Stowmarket player Katherine Rednall begins her campaign to become the youngest-ever winner of the women’s event on Saturday, when she makes her tournament debut against Eleanor Gass.

The teenager will also partner three-time men’s champion Andy Thomson in the Mixed Doubles against Marshall and Alison Merrien MBE on Friday, with a semi-final game in prospect against Darren Burnett and Karen Murphy or Greg Harlow and Janice Gower in the last four.

And Royal is in no doubt she can produce on the big stage.

“I don’t need to give her any advice as she takes everything in her stride,” said Royal of the Stowmarket High School pupil.

“She can handle the pressure and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her go on and win it.

“A lot of people seem to think the same as her odds have gone down from 14-1 to 5-1 to win the tournament.”

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