On day one of the Slovenia Para Open in Lasko defending men’s class 7 champion Will Bayley secured his place in the quarterfinals as group winner while Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5), Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6), Ross Wilson (men’s class 8), Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 8) and Fliss Pickard (women’s class 6) lead their respective groups with two wins from two matches and Rob Davies (men’s class 1), Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Lee York (men’s class 4) Martin Perry (men’s class 6), Theo Bishop (men’s class 7), Billy Shilton (men’s class 8), Ashley Facey (men’s class 9), Joshua Stacey (men’s class 9), Megan Shackleton (women’s class 4) and Grace Williams (women’s class 8) all recorded wins with the final group matches to be played tomorrow.
“I’m really pleased with the wins,” said Bayley. “I haven’t played my best table tennis but it is my first tournament and I feel nervous because it still means so much to me. After all these years I don’t think the nerves go and I’m pleased about that because I love it so much and want to do well.”
Men’s Class 1
Rob Davies lost the first set to his old rival Silvio Keller, the European bronze medallist from Switzerland but came back to edge the second 13-11 and completed a 3-1 win. He led 1-0, 10-7 against Kim Hakjin but the World number eight from Korea edged the second set 12-10 and went on to take the match 3-1. Davies plays his final group match against the unranked Hiroaki Shimanari from Japan.
Tom Matthews was a comfortable 3-0 winner against Wang Zhenwen from China and then had his chances against Park Sung Joo, particularly in the second set but the World number four from Korea, gold medallist in the Greek Open last month, took it 15-13 and the match 3-0. Matthews plays his final group match against the Italian Luca Chiarini tomorrow.
Men’s class 3
Romain Simon lost 3-0 to Colin Judge, the former class 2 European champion from Ireland, and 3-0 to Osama Abu Jame from Jordan, the former Asian Para Games silver medallist. He plays the World number two Florian Merrien from France in his final group match.
Men’s class 4
Lee York lost 3-0 to the World number 11 Filip Nachazel from Czech Republic, gold medallist in last year’s Czech Para Open, but then showed great determination to beat Tetsuya Tamatsu from Japan 3-2, taking the deciding set 11-9. He plays World champion Kim Jung-gil from Korea in his final group match.
Men’s class 5
Jack Hunter-Spivey had to dig deep to come back from 2-1 down to beat 19-year-old Isak Nyholm from Sweden, bronze medallist in Finland and the Czech Republic last year, 3-2, securing the win 11-9 in the fifth.
He had to fight in his second match as well as World number nine Bart Brands from Belgium, silver medallist in Egypt, Finland and Greece last year, levelled at 1-1 and had chances to win the third before Hunter-Spivey took it 13-11 and went on to take the match 3-1. He plays his final group match against Liu Fu from China, the former Asian Championships team gold medallist.
Men’s class 6
Martin Perry also had to show his fighting spirit to come through his first match against the former Asian Para Games team silver medallist Lee Se Ho from Korea, who edged the fourth set 13-11 to level at 2-2 before Perry secured a 3-2 win, 11-7 in the fifth. He took the first set against Matteo Parenzan from Italy before the World champion and World number four came back to win 3-1 and will secure his place in the knockout stages if he wins his final group match against Trevor Hirth from Australia, the 2017 Oceania champion.
Paul Karabardak began with a 3-0 win against Lennard Properjohn from Australia, bronze medallist in Greek Para Open last month, and was impressive in beating Alberto Seoane Alcaraz from Spain, World number 12 and two-time World team gold medallist 3-0. He plays Haris Eminovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina in his final group match.
Men’s class 7
Will Bayley recovered from a slow start to beat World number 18 Jonas Hansson from Sweden 3-1. The last time he played Liao Keli was in their epic semi-final in Tokyo that he won 12-10 in the deciding set and although Bayley took the match 3-0 today it could have been a lot closer if the Chinese former World number four had taken his chances in the second set, which Bayley edged 13-11 helped by a time-out call from coach Andrew Rushton at 11-11 after he had fought back from 10-8 down.
“It was a huge set,” admitted Bayley. “Keli is such a dangerous player and he is a flow player as well so if he gets in front he relaxes and I didn’t want him to relax so I knew that second set was vital because when he gets going he is unstoppable at times. So I had to win that set and it was a big couple of points at 11-11.”
Theo Bishop won in four sets when he played Paulo Salmin Filho in Italy earlier this year and it looked as if he was going to repeat that victory when he led 2-0. But the World number 11 from Brazil worked his way back into the match and eventually secured the win 11-9 in the fifth.
Bishop was 2-0 down against Henrik Brammer but fought back superbly to take the third 12-10, level at 2-2 and beat the European team silver medallist from Denmark 11-9 in the deciding set. He plays the Japanese World number eight Katsuyoshi Yagi, gold medallist in Montenegro last weekend, in his final match.
Men’s class 8
Ross Wilson was a 3-0 winner against the former European silver medallist Gyula Zborai from Hungary and then beat the World number 15 from Serbia Aleksej Radukic 3-0. He plays his final group match against Hiromi Sato from Japan.
Aaron McKibbin won 3-0 against Arufuahirokazu Tateishi from Japan, the former Asian Championships bronze medallist, and then clinched a 3-0 win against Marc Ledoux, the former World number one from Belgium, 16-14 in the third. He plays his final group match against Pablo Jacobsen from Norway, medallist in France, Montenegro and Finland last year.
Billy Shilton won 3-0 against Alejandro Diaz from Spain, the Costa Brava Spanish Open bronze medallist, and then put up a spirited performance against Zhao Shuai, taking the second set 11-9 having led 8-2 before the three-time Paralympic champion from China secured a 3-1 win. He can progress tomorrow if he beats Sunnatillo Murodullaev from Uzbekistan in his final match.
Men’s class 9
Joshua Stacey was a comfortable 3-0 winner against Ho Ka Sing from Hong Kong China, silver medallist in Thailand last year but could not find his best form against Daniel Gustafsson despite leading 2-0 and the European bronze medallist from Sweden came back to win 3-2. Stacey must now wait for the result of tomorrow’s final group match between Gustafsson and Ho to see if he will go through as group winner or runner-up.
Ashley Facey won 3-0 against Fan Yufei from China and played well against World number four Lev Kats from Ukraine, taking the second set 12-10 to level at 1-1 before the Paralympic team gold medallist and World doubles champion secured a 3-1 win. Facey plays Aviv Gordon from Israel, gold medallist in Montenegro last year, in his final group match.
Women’s class 4
Megan Shackleton started superbly in her opening match against the World champion Wijittra Jaion, taking the first set 11-4. The World number three from Thailand levelled at 1-1 and came back in the third to take it 11-9 before securing a 3-1 win. Shackleton plays her final group match against Andreja Dolinar from Slovenia, the World number 12 and former European medallist.
Women’s class 6
Fliss Pickard began with a 3-0 win against 16-year-old Barbara Jablonka from Poland, the World number 14. She dropped the first set against Lee KunWoo but came back strongly to beat the World number five and World bronze medallist from Korea 3-1 and plays her final group match against Merethe Tveiten from Norway, silver medallist in the Costa Brava Spanish Open earlier this year.
Women’s class 8
Grace Williams took the first set against World bronze medallist Sophia Kelmer 11-5 and edged the second 14-12 to lead 2-0. She had three match points in the third but the World number four from Brazil took it 14-12 and then levelled at 2-2. However, the Welsh teenager was not to be denied and held her nerve superbly to take the fifth set 11-6 and the match 3-2.
She could not quite produce that same level against Elena Elli from Italy and the World number 13, medallist in Italy and Greece this year, took the match 3-0. Williams plays her final group match against World champion Thu Kamkasomphou from France.