At the end of day one of the World Qualification Tournament in Lasko, Slovenia all seven British athletes are still in with a chance of securing qualification for the Paralympic Games. Billy Shilton (men’s class 8) has secured his place in the knockout stages and Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4), Fliss Pickard (women’s class 6), Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 9) and Kim Daybell (men’s class 10) all lead their groups with one match to play tomorrow.
This is the first time that a Para table tennis qualification tournament has been held for a Paralympic Games and there is only one prize in each class – the last qualification spot for Tokyo for the winner. This unique challenge is even harder for the 210 athletes from 47 countries as this is the first international tournament since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sue Gilroy - women’s class 4
Gilroy lost a close first set to Wassana Sringam from Thailand but recovered to lead 2-1. The fourth set was close and the 19-year-old Asian championship team silver medallist had three points to level the match at 10-8 and 11-10 but Gilroy showed all her experience to edge the set 13-11 and take the match 3-1.
Her record against Zorica Popadic was 21 from 22 but the 46-year-old former World and European team gold medallist from Serbia had won their most recent meeting in the 2019 Slovenia Open 3-1. At 1-1 the third set proved pivotal today with Gilroy coming from 9-7 down to take it 11-9 and she went on to take the fourth 11-6 and the match 3-1.
Gilroy will secure first place in her group if she can beat the German Lisa Hentig tomorrow.
Fliss Pickard - women’s class 6
After taking the first two sets comfortably against Emelie Andre from Sweden, Fliss Pickard survived a third set fight back by the 23-year-old world number 14 to edge it 12-10 and take the match 3-0. She was impressive in beating the Russian world number eight Fatma Fattakhova 3-0 and will progress to the knockout stages as group winner if she wins her final match tomorrow against Merethe Tveiten from Norway.
Jack Hunter-Spivey - men’s class 5
Jack Hunter-Spivey is top seed here in men’s class 5 but he had a disappointing start to the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Grigorii Isakov. The world number eight from Liverpool edged a close first set but could not find his best form and the 39-year-old Russian took full advantage.
He kept his hopes alive with a 3-0 win against the 2017 PanAmerican champion from Argentina Elias Romero and the final group standings will depend on the result of the match between Isakov and Romero tomorrow.
Martin Perry - men’s class 6
Martin Perry lost the first set to Haris Eminovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina but fought back to take the second 13-11. He led 2-1 and had a match point at 10-9 in the fourth but could not convert it and 20-year-old Eminovic took the set 12-10 to level at 2-2. At 0-3 Perry’s coach Mat Kenny called a timeout and it worked as Perry reeled off the next seven points and at 10-6 had four match points. Sadly for the Scotsman he could not take any of them and his tricky opponent took the set 12-10 and the match 3-2.
Five of Perry’s last six matches against Marios Chatzikyriakos had gone to five sets and the 19-year-old European team silver medallist had won their most recent meeting in the Polish Open last year, but Perry was in determined mood and he played superbly to beat his Greek opponent in three sets to keep himself in contention to progress from his group. He plays his final group match tomorrow against Piotr Manturz from Poland.
Billy Shilton – men’s class 8
Billy Shilton gave the British squad the perfect start with a 3-0 win against the 36-year-old PanAmerican bronze medallist Diego Henao Quintero from Colombia. He had a tougher task in his second match against the hugely experienced former World number two Gyula Zborai from Hungary, who levelled the match at 1-1, but Shilton was not deterred and secured his place in the quarter-finals tomorrow with a 3-1 win.
Ashley Facey Thompson – men’s class 9
Ashley Facey Thompson looked sharp in beating the 34-year-old African team gold medallist
Francis Chukwuemeka from Nigeria 3-1. The 26-year-old Londoner had never beaten Dezso Bereczki from Hungary in seven previous meetings and the former World number four from Hungary took the first set 11-8. Facey Thompson came back to lead 2-1 but Bereczki levelled the match at 2-2 and led 6-3 and 9-7 in the decider. However, the young British player held his nerve and took the match 11-9 in the fifth to lead the group and plays his final match against Marcin Zielinski from Poland tomorrow.
Kim Daybell – men’s class 9
Kim Daybell began with a 3-0 win against Gustav Wiesenhofer from Austria, the 2017 Hungarian Open champion. He has had some close matches in the past against Bunpot Sillapakong and the 2019 Japan Open silver medallist from Thailand led 8-4 in the first before Daybell came back to edge a close set 17-15 with some spectacular defense that produced errors from his increasingly frustrated opponent. The 28-year-old from Sheffield appeared to grow in confidence from that point and having taken the second set 11-5 he once again fought back in the third to take it 11-8 and the match 3-0.
Daybell plays his last group match against 14 year old Mio Wagner from Germany tomorrow.