Bayley and Stacey through to World singles finals in Spain
Will Bayley and Joshua Stacey will go for gold tomorrow in the finals of men’s class 7 and men’s class 9 respectively at the World Para Table Tennis Championships in Andalucia. Scotsman Martin Perry will take bronze in men’s class 6, Rob Davies is through to the semi-finals of men’s class 1 and defending champion Ross Wilson is joined in the quarterfinals of men’s class 8 by Aaron McKibbin.
Bayley came through his quarterfinal against the World number six and former Paralympic champion Stephane Messi from France 3-0 to set up a semi-final meeting with the four-time PanAmerican champion Paulo Salmin from Brazil. Bayley had edged their most recent match in Italy in 2019 in five sets but he was quick out of the blocks today, establishing a 2-0 lead and although Salmin led 7-4 in the third Bayley won seven consecutive points to take the set 11-7 and the match 3-0. He will play the Dutch European champion and World number two Jean-paul Montanus in tomorrow’s final.
“I’m really pleased,” said Bayley. “Semi-finals are always difficult and it was a loud crowd as well so I had to deal with that but I felt that I did a good job. I’ve got much more to give – I’ve saved a bit in the kitty - and I knew I had to try and get it done quickly and not over-celebrate. It’s a big game tomorrow.”
Stacey was impressive in beating Lucas Didier 3-0 and in doing so avenged his defeat by the French teenager at the last European Championships. He will play the World number one Laurens Devos from Belgium in tomorrow’s final.
“It was a much better performance than yesterday’s quarterfinal,” said Stacey, “I think I was very solid. I knew Didier would serve a lot long to my backhand and try and get a weak return and I think I dealt with that pretty well. I felt like he couldn’t really hurt me in the open rally and I could pick my spot and dictate where the point went. I think I was always on top of him from the word go and I’m glad I kept it going for the full three sets. I’ll rest up, recover well and go again tomorrow.”
Perry came into these championships determined to make the most of his opportunity as a wild card and he showed all his battling qualities to win his quarterfinal against the very experienced former PanAmerican champion Cristian Dettoni. Having dropped the first set he edged the second 14-12 and then recovered from 7-2 down in the third to take it 11-7. He led 6-2 in the fourth but the World number nine from Chile levelled at 8-8 and had a point to take it into a deciding set before Perry clinched the set 12-10 and the match 3-1.
Already assured of a medal the Scotsman took on Matteo Parenzan in the semi-final. The Italian beat Perry in the Greek Open final a few weeks ago and the 19-year-old World number four was at his best in defeating Perry 3-0.
"Obviously I'm gutted to have lost the semi-final," said Perry, "but at the same time I'm so incredibly happy and proud to have got a bronze medal at my first World Championships. I've had some tough matches here and to come through them in the fashion that I did - showing fighting spirit which I always do - was great. On paper I shouldn't have been here because I didn't qualify but I was lucky enough to get a wild card because the organising committee and the ITTF believed in me so to come away with a bronze is the best feeling ever. I've also been made aware that I am now Scotland's most successful male table tennis player and to represent Great Britain and Scotland at the highest level makes me very proud. To me this bronze medal is a gold."
Davies led 2-0 in his quarterfinal against Federico Falco but the World Team gold medallist from Italy levelled at 2-2 to take the match into a deciding set. With Davies leading 8-4 play was halted while Falco received treatment for a leg spasm and when the match resumed the Italian worked his way back to 9-8. A backhand winner set up two match points for Davies and although Falco saved the first he couldn’t deal with a forehand from the Welshman who roared in triumph as he secured the win.
“It was an unbelievable match really,” said Davies, “for it to get to the fifth end and to be so close. I didn’t really expect to get to the semi-finals this year if I’m totally honest so I’m just really happy with that. It was a bit of a stop-start match but Federico played really well and it is good to get through that especially in the pressure of a World Championship.”
Tom Matthews put up a great fight against the World number one Joo Young Dae in his men’s class 1 quarterfinal. Having lost the first set 12-10 he took the second 11-4 and then edged the fourth to level at 2-2 after Joo had won the third 11-9. The Welshman was 8-5 down in the final set but worked his way back to level at 8-8 and set up a match point at 10-9 that the Paralympic champion saved with a smash before setting up a match point of his own. Matthews saved that but a service error gave Joo a second match point and he took the set 13-11 and the match 3-2.
“I’m pleased with how I played,” said a heartbroken Matthews. “Fair play to him - he was on his game today and he came out the better player. I’ve made a lot of improvement since Tokyo and I’m proud of the way I played and I’ve got to say a massive thank you to my team mates for their support in the crowd and everyone back home.”
Joo and Davies will meet in the semi-final tomorrow for the first time since their Paralympic final in Rio 2016 that the Welshman won in four sets.
Wilson started the defence of his title with a 3-1 win against Emil Andersson, the former European champion and World and Paralympic medallist from Sweden, edging a tight third set after Andersson had levelled at 1-1 and then securing the win 11-8 in the fourth. He plays Rio silver medallist Andras Csonka from Hungary in the quarterfinals.
“I’m really excited to play Csonka tomorrow,” said Wilson. “I knew Emil was going to be a tough match and I’d have to dig deep to get the win and that is exactly what I did. I went in with a certain game plan and it wasn’t always working exactly how I wanted it to but that happens when you have slight nerves at the beginning of a competition and it’s nice to be able to go forwards now with a bit more confidence.”
McKibbin was a comfortable 3-0 winner against the PanAmerican champion Luiz Manara from Brazil and will play Maksym Nikolenko from Ukraine in tomorrow’s quarterfinals.
“I feel I played really well today,” said McKibbin, “and improved from yesterday. I executed the game plan really well which meant he didn’t have a chance to put me under any pressure. I’m really looking forward to playing against Nikolenko tomorrow. I’ve only played him once which I won in Japan but I know it’s going to be a tough match. If I bring the level I showed today I’m good enough to beat anyone in this competition so I’m just going to focus on doing what I do best and look to impose my game on him.”
Doubles gold medallist Billy Shilton was never able to get into his men’s 8 last 16 match today against Thomas Bouvais and the World and Paralympic team bronze medallist from France, who was beaten by Shilton at the Greek Open, was a 3-0 winner.
“I’m obviously really disappointed to have lost,” said Shilton. “Overall I wasn’t happy with my performance in the match and I felt that I made a lot of silly errors and some poor tactical decisions so I’m looking forward to getting back into the practice hall and working on all those things.”
Grace Williams fought back from 2-1 down to win her last 16 match against Aneth Araya from Costa Rica and her reward was a quarterfinal against the top seed and World number one Aida Dahlen from Norway. Their two previous meetings resulted in 3-0 wins for the World and Paralympic bronze medallist and although Williams played well Dahlen was just too strong today in a 3-0 win.