Shilton takes gold in Spain

Shilton takes gold in Spain

Billy Shilton boosted his hopes of Paralympic qualification by taking gold in the men’s class 8 singles at the ITTF Costa Brava Spanish Open in Platja D’Aro today. Fliss Pickard took silver in women’s class 6 and there were bronze medals for Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5) and Martin Perry (men’s class 6).

Men’s class 8

Billy Shilton started with a 3-0 win against Arufuahirokazu Tateishi from Japan, the former Asian Championships medallist and secured top place in the group and a bye into the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win against Banyu Tri Mulyo from Indonesia, last year’s Thailand Para Open gold medallist. He beat the Belgian former World number one Marc Ledoux 3-1 and then battled back from 2-1 down to beat Tokyo Paralympic bronze medallist Peng Weinan from China 3-2 and progress to the final.

Shilton beat Borna Zohil in five sets in Italy last week and he took the first 11-5 today before the 17-year-old from Croatia, silver medallist in the Brazilian Open last month, hit back to take the second 11-8. However, Shilton moved ahead again taking the third 11-4 and secured the gold 11-6 in the fourth.

“I’m obviously unbelievably pleased to have won the tournament with some really good wins along the way,” said 25-year-old Shilton, from Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. “I’m really proud and happy with how I’ve performed and mentally I was really strong and confident - trying not to put myself under too much pressure and just play my game. I’ve not been satisfied with the level I’ve been showing in tournaments over the last six months so I’m absolutely buzzing to be honest - it was much needed for me personally especially coming off the back of Italy which wasn’t the best performance.  I’m unbelievably happy to have taken the gold and thankful for the team support – I was on late in the evening and they all stayed to support me. Matjaz (BPTT coach Matjaz Sercer) was also great in the corner - we’ve worked together a lot in Sheffield and it really showed so I’m very happy.”

Women’s class 6

Fliss Pickard was a 3-0 winner against Merethe Tveiten, the European doubles champion from Norway and then fought off the challenge of Gabriela Constantin 11-6 in the fifth after the World number six and European bronze medallist from Romania had come back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2. A 3-1 win against Morgen Caillaud from France took her into the final against World number two Stephanie Grebe.

Pickard edged the first set 12-10 before Grebe took the second 11-8 and then came back from 9-5 down to take a tight third set 12-10. Pickard came storming back to take the fourth 11-1 and had match point in the deciding set at 10-9 and again at 11-10 but the Tokyo Paralympic bronze medallist from Germany took the set 13-11 and the match 3-2.

“I’m obviously gutted to lose,” said Pickard, “but the level of the final was very high, and I can be proud of my performances over these last two weeks especially the way I have conducted myself. I’m looking forward to the doubles now.”

Men’s class 1

Tom Matthews began with a 3-0 win against Jehan Dorab Madan from India, the 2023 Egypt Para Open gold medallist and followed that with a 3-1 win against the World number nine and European bronze medallist Federico Falco from Italy. He progressed to the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against Rakan Abdulrahman Alsalmi from Saudi Arabia and led 2-0 in his semi-final against Timo Natunen but the World number 12 from Finland took the third set 11-9 and edged the fourth 13-11 before taking the deciding set 11-8.

“I’m really happy with how I played overall especially against Falco,” said Matthews. “He’s improved a lot, and it was good to get the win over him. The fourth set against Timo was crucial and he just played really well and was the better player on the day. It’s good to get some matches under my belt - I’m obviously disappointed but Timo won today and I’ve got to take that and I’ll be back stronger.”

Men’s class 5

Jack Hunter-Spivey had not dropped a set to Sem Roelofs in three previous meetings but the 26-year-old from Netherlands led 2-1 and then took the deciding set 12-10 after Hunter-Spivey had levelled at 2-2. The 28-year-old from Liverpool bounced back from that disappointment with a 3-1 win against World number eight Zhan Dashun, the Asian Para Games silver medallist from China, and progressed to the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win against former Asian Para Games gold medallist Agus Sutanto from Indonesia. A 3-0 win against 23-year-old David Olsson from Sweden took him into the semi-final where he came up against World number two Cheng Ming Chih from Chinese Taipei who took the match 3-0.

“A mixed bag of results overall,” said Hunter-Spivey. “I was glad to bounce back from a disappointing loss in the group and it’s always good to play Cheng – he is a difficult style to play and I just wasn’t at my best today.”

Men’s class 6

Martin Perry was a 3-0 winner against Mario Bastardo from Portugal and then survived a fightback from Michael Azulay, the World number 10 from Sweden who levelled at 2-2 from 2-0 down before the Scot took the deciding set 11-3. Perry topped his group with a 3-1 win against World number 20 Georgios Mouchthis, the former European team silver medallist from Greece and received a bye into the semi-finals where he lost 3-0 to the improving 20-year-old German Benedikt Muller.

“I’m obviously disappointed to lose the semi-final 3-0,” said Perry, “especially with the first two sets being so tight – 11-9 11-9.  That gave Benedikt the confidence in the third set to be a bit braver in his shot selection and he put me on the back foot and I just couldn’t get going. I’m really happy with the matches I played to get to this stage, beating players like Azulay when I showed my level and played really well in the fifth set. George from Greece is a tricky customer, so I was very happy to win that 3-1 and it was good to win my group and guarantee myself another medal and extra points which at this stage of the season is so vital.”

Men’s class 9

Joshua Stacey fought back from 2-0 down against Jorge Cardona to level at 2-2 but the World number six and three-time Paralympic team medallist from Spain took the deciding set 11-7 for a 3-2 win. Stacey secured his place in the knockout stages with a 3-0 win against Talgat Erekeyev from Kazakhstan and was drawn against World number one Laurens Devos in the quarterfinals and the World, Paralympic and European champion from Belgium was a 3-0 winner.

Ashley Facey had a challenging opening match against Laurens Devos and after losing the first two sets he took the third before Devos completed a 3-1 win. Facey did not progress after a 3-0 loss to Dezso Bereczki from Hungary, the World number 16 and former European bronze medallist.

Women’s class 8

Grace Williams was drawn in a tough group and led 2-1 against World number five Sophia Kelmer before the Para PanAmerican Games silver medallist from Brazil came back to level at 2-2 and take the deciding set 11-8. Williams did not progress after a 3-0 loss to World number six Juliane Wolf, the European bronze medallist from Germany.

The tournament continues with the doubles events that conclude on Thursday.