Day five of the ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championships 2023 in Sheffield saw more than 100 games take place as the doubles competition got underway following the completion of the singles tournament yesterday.
The competition includes men’s women’s and mixed doubles across a number of classes and featured 15 of the players who triumphed in yesterday’s singles.
However, the singles champions did not have it all their own way, with some being unable to repeat their success in the doubles format.
An early surprise came in the class 17 mixed doubles where Norway’s singles class 8 gold medallist, Aida Dahleen, had teamed-up with Pablo Jacobson to take on the French pairing of Lucie Hautiere and Lucas Didier.
A close, high scoring match, saw the Norwegians take the first and third sets, but each time the French replied, taking the second and fourth, leaving the match poised at 2-2.
The Norwegian pair appeared to have the advantage when they led 9-6 in the fifth but the French duo produced a devastating fightback, winning six of the next seven points, to take the final set 12-10 and win the match 3-2.
Speaking afterwards, France’s Lucie Hautiere admitted they had pulled-off a surprise. She said: "It was a good match. They are a stronger pair so we just had to play point by point.”
On their last set comeback, her partner Lucas Didier added: "The beginning of the last set was not good for us. We were behind so we didn't think of the score, we just thought point by point, stayed focused and we won, so we're happy. We will take our time to rest because that was a hard match. Then we'll go to the warm-up area and practice for the next match."
Another big surprise came in men’s doubles class 18 match where Belgium’s class 9 champion, Lauren Devos and Ben Ashok Despineux teamed-up against Poland’s class 10 champion, Patryk Chojnowski and Piotr Grudzien.
A tense opening set see-sawed both ways before the Polish duo eventually prevailed 17-15. The loss seemed to affect the Belgium duo, while the Polish pair upped their level to win the next two sets 11-7 and 11-5 to win the match 3-0 and set-up a semi-final against Great Britain’s Joshua Stacey and Ross Wilson.
Another of yesterday’s champions that will not get the chance to emulate their singles success in the doubles format is home favourite Will Bayley. The class 7 singles champion played with teen prodigy, Bly Twomey in the mixed class 14 and Ashley Facey in the men’s class 18 but did not get past the round of 16 in either competition.
Singles gold medallists that enjoyed better fortunes included the German duo of class 3 and 5 champions, Thomas Schmidberger and Valentin Baus, in the men’s class 8 doubles and Ukraine’s pairing of class 8 champion, Viktor Didukh, and singles class 6 winner, Maryna Lytovchenko in the mixed class 14.
Schmidberger and Baus comfortably overcame the French pair of Florian Merrien and Nicolas Savant-Aira 3-0 to set-up a semi-final tomorrow against Serbia’s Mladen Ciric and Mitar Palikuca.
Baus said: “We had a good start. The first two games were really good but the third game was a up and down but we are happy we won the match.”
Schmidberger added: “It's not the first time we are in this situation (playing doubles after winning the singles title) so nothing new on how it feels. We know how to keep it because of yesterday and give 100%.”
In their mixed class 14 match Ukraine’s Didukh and Lytovchenko beat the home nation’s Billy Shilton and Felicity Pickard 3-0 to set-up a semi-final with Maksym Hubert Chudzicki and Katarzyna Marcszal of Poland.
Lytovchenko said: "For now I feel good but we know that the semi-final will not be easy, so we are concentrated as we want to receive the title.
“Our opponents were playing in their home country but we didn't feel any difference as we have different opponents, so we just focus on our concentration going into every match.
“It doesn't make a difference about me winning gold yesterday as individual competitions and team competitions are completely different to being in a team. We understand that to get the best results we have to be together as a team. Yesterday’s result was yesterday’s result and now we are only focused on the matches going forward."
All the results from today’s play and the draw for the final day of the tournament tomorrow can be viewed at https://www.ittf.com/tournament/5484/ITTF-European-Championships-2023/.
The final day of action starts at 10:00 (BST) and will be streamed live on the IITF YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@ITTFWorld.
The European Para Table Tennis Championships is an ITTF event which is supported by funding from the National Lottery and Sheffield City Council and will be delivered in association with a range of partners including UK Sport, British Para Table Tennis and Table Tennis England (TTE). Event suppliers include: Butterfly, Neon Flooring, 729 – Table Tennis Balls and the Crowne Plaza Hotel Sheffield.