Nine British players still in contention for World Championship singles medals in Spain

Nine British players still in contention for World Championship singles medals in Spain

Commonwealth champion Joshua Stacey is assured of at least a bronze medal after reaching the semi-finals of the men’s class 9 singles at the World Para Table Tennis Championships in Andalucia today. Rob Davies (men’s class 1), Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Martin Perry (men’s class 6) and Will Bayley (men’s class 7) are all through to the quarterfinals of their respective events, while Aaron McKibbin and newly crowned World doubles champion Billy Shilton joined Ross Wilson in the last 16 of men’s class 8.

However, there was disappointment for Commonwealth champion Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5) and Shilton’s doubles partner Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6) who both lost.

Stacey was not at his best but showed all his fighting spirit and determination to come through a five-set battle against the very experienced former World and Paralympic team medallist Jorge Cardona. The World number seven from Spain took the first set 11-6 but Stacey took the second 12-10 to level at 1-1. He had his chances in the third set but Cardona edged it 16-14 and after a good time out call from coach Mat Kenny, Stacey took the fourth 11-9 to force a decider. The final set swung one way then another but Stacey moved to 10-8 when Cardona sent a forehand long and clinched the set on his second match point when another forehand from the Spaniard missed the table.

It was the third meeting between the pair and Stacey had won both previous encounters, the last in five sets. Although pleased to get the win, the young Welshman was not happy with his performance.

“I feel I could have performed a lot better,” he said. “I didn’t deal with his serves as well as I’d like to - probably 80% of the time on serve I gave him the opportunity to attack and that is definitely something that needs to be worked on. Obviously that’s not going to be right now but when I get back into the training hall so I think I just need to reset and refocus for tomorrow’s game.”

Stacey plays the Frenchman Lucas Didier tomorrow for a place in the final.

Matthews was 6-1 down in the first set against the Argentinian Guillermo Bustamante but recovered to take it 12-10. He took the second 11-6 but the former PanAmerican Championship bronze medallist won the third 11-6 before Matthews clinched his place in the quarterfinals 11-8 in the fourth. He will play the Korean top seed and World number one Joo Young Dae.

“Bit of a slow start,” said Matthews. “I think I gave him too much respect at the start but he’s a tricky character and he’s improved a lot so I’m pleased I got through it. On to Joo now and looking forward to it. Let’s go and get some medals and smash it!”

Rob Davies took on old rival Sylvio Keller, the European bronze medallist from Switzerland, in his first match. The two have had some great battles in the past with Davies winning their most recent encounter in the Finland Open in five sets. Once again, it went the distance after Keller took the first set 11-6 and then levelled at 2-2 after the Welshman had taken a 2-1 lead. Davies is still looking to recover the form that saw him take Paralympic gold in Rio but he took control of the deciding set and won it 11-5 to set up a quarterfinal tomorrow against the Italian Federico Falco.

“The first match against Sylvio is always tricky,” said Davies, “and it wouldn’t be right if it didn’t go to five sets I suppose so I’m glad to get the first match over with. I was very nervous out there and just needed to get used to the conditions. I’m frustrated with the way I played but hopefully I can improve that in my second match. I’m used to building through the tournament so hopefully that is what I’ll do.”

Perry made a great start to his first World Championships with a hard-fought 3-1 win against European team silver medallist Georgios Mouchthis from Greece. After taking the first set 11-8 he worked his way back into the second from 9-5 down to take it 13-11 with a spectacular forehand winner. Mouchthis came back to take the third 11-8 and led 9-6 in the fourth but Perry levelled at 9-9 before edging a tense set 14-12 to book his place in the quarterfinals where he will face Cristian Dettoni from Chile who put out the home favourite and number two seed Alvaro Valera.

“It was a tough match,” said Perry. “Georgios is a tough player - he is always going to come at you with a really awkward style and it wasn’t a pretty match but I think taking the first two sets obviously gave me a lot of confidence. I feel I served well which I‘m really proud of because notoriously in the past that has been a difficulty for me but I feel like the last few competitions, especially this year, I’ve really focused on my service and it’s paid off today. To win my first match at my first World Championships I’m absolutely over the moon and to be fighting for a medal in my next match - I’m just going to try and enjoy every minute of it and who knows what can happen?”

Bayley looked sharp as he took the first set against Jonas Hansson from Sweden 11-5 but was made to fight hard by the 25-year-old World number 18 who started moving his opponent around the table and using his powerful forehand to good effect. At 5-2 down in the second Hansson called a timeout and despite losing the next point he went on to win the set 11-8 to level at 1-1 and pushed Bayley all the way before the Rio Paralympic champion took the third set 11-9 and edged a tense fourth set 12-10 to secure a 3-1 win and a quarterfinal match tomorrow against the Frenchman Stephane Messi.

“It was a good match,” said Bayley. “To give Hansson credit he was amazing and played so well. I never felt really comfortable in the match - it was really difficult but it’s massive to get the win and that’s the challenge. If I want to win this tournament I’ve got to get through those matches and I’m proud of myself that I dug deep.”

McKibbin started well against Steven Roman Chinchilla from Costa Rica taking the first set 11-4 and although the former PanAmerican champion levelled by taking the second 11-8 McKibbin restored his lead 11-9 in the third and secured his place in the last 16, 11-1 in the fourth.

“It’s really nice to get the win,” said McKibbin. “He’s a tough style to play first match and I’ve been sitting around for five or six days watching the other guys win matches which has been amazing but has made me want to get out there, so I was just really excited to get started. Obviously first match is always a shaky one and it is nice to get it under my belt. I felt I was playing really well and I’m looking forward to tomorrow playing the Brazilian Luiz Manara. I’ve got a great opportunity to get to the quarterfinals and I’m just going to give it my best shot and see what happens.”

Shilton’s opponent was Clement Berthier from France who had won their last three meetings but the 24-year-old from Gloucester took a 2-0 lead before the Tokyo bronze medallist came back to level at 2-2. Having won the fourth for the loss of only one point the momentum seemed to be with the Frenchman and at 3-1 down in the final set GB coach Andrew Rushton called a timeout. It worked as Shilton levelled and showed great character to edge the final set 13-11 and take his place in the last 16 where he will play another Frenchman Thomas Bouvais.

“Very happy to have won obviously,” said Shilton. “When I saw the draw at the start of the tournament I was a bit nervous because I have lost to him the last few times so I’m very happy with the win and the way I performed. Andrew was amazing in the corner and kept me relaxed when I needed to be and I’m looking forward to tomorrow now.”

World number five Karabardak was unfortunate to be drawn against the men’s class 6 World number one Peter Rosenmeier in the last 16 and the reigning World and European champion and two-time Paralympic champion from Denmark was in top form today in a 3-0 win.

“I prepared well but it was a difficult first round to play the World number one,” said Karabardak. “I thought I did OK but he was playing really well today and I couldn’t really find a way to get into the match. He was tactically very good and hit some good shots. Maybe I wasn’t at my best but he was excellent so good luck to Peter for the rest of the competition. The doubles was fantastic - it is amazing to become World champion - but I’m just a bit disappointed with such a difficult draw in the singles because I feel the way I’m playing I could have progressed through a few rounds and maybe challenged for a medal. But on the whole I’m very happy with my World Championships.”

Hunter-Spivey started well in his quarterfinal against Lucas Arabian taking the first set 11-5 but the teenager from Brazil, gold medallist in the Brazilian Open this year, responded by taking the second 11-5 to level at 1-1. Hunter-Spivey led 9-5 in the third but a run of six consecutive points gave Carvalho a 2-1 lead and at 10-5 in the fourth he had five match points. After three were saved the Brazilian coach called a time out and the 16-year-old gave a roar of triumph as he clinched the set 11-8 and the match 3-1.

“I’m really disappointed with that result,” said Hunter-Spivey. “I don’t feel I produced my best but credit to him he played great. I’m just very disappointed.”