World champions Billy Shilton and Paul Karabardak took gold in the men’s class 14 doubles on the final day of the Czech Para Open today and Ashley Facey combined with Koyo Iwabuchi from Japan to win the men’s class 18 doubles. There were also bronze medals for Joshua Stacey and Ross Wilson (men’s class 18), Fliss Pickard and Grace Williams (women’s class 14) and Martin Perry and Grace Williams (mixed class 14).
Men’s class 14
Billy Shilton and Paul Karabardak were 3-0 winners against Sam Gustafsson and Styrbjorn Ekengren from Sweden and then had to dig deep to secure a 3-2 win against Marcin Zielinski and Piotr Manturz from Poland, saving two match points before taking the deciding set 14-12. As group winners and number one seeds they received a bye into the semi-finals and a 3-0 win against Andres Beroiza from Chile and Haris Eminovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina took them into the final against the class 7 pair of former European Para Youth Games champion Luka Trtnik from Slovenia and European bronze medallist Miroslav Jambor from Slovakia.
Shilton and Karabardak took the first two sets 11-8 11-8 and although two match points came and went at 10-8 they held their nerve, saved a set point at 11-10 down and secured a 3-0 win and the gold medal on their third match point, 13-11.
“I’m really pleased,” said Karabardak. “It’s always nice to play with Billy – I really enjoy it and I think we are a great doubles pair. I’m so happy to win gold with him again. After a really tough game and a scare in the group against Poland we came out and played some of our best stuff in the semi and the final against some difficult teams. I think it can only help to build our confidence ahead of the European Championships.”
“I’m really happy to have won gold with Paul,” said Shilton. “We had a lot of tough matches, but we pulled through them and communicated really well during the pressure moments. Paul played amazingly in every match and it’s always a pleasure to play with him. I think this has given us a lot of confidence leading up to the Europeans and I’m looking forward to playing more with Paul and continuing to improve our doubles game.”
Men’s class 18
Ashley Facey lost a five-set semi-final to Koyo Iwabuchi in the singles yesterday, but he teamed up with the Japanese World number four in the doubles and they started with a 3-0 win against Lukas Maxa and Jan Michal from Czech Republic. They topped their group after a 3-1 win against Banyu Tri Mulyo and Komet Akbar from Indonesia and won a close quarterfinal against the very strong Ukrainian pair of Maksym Nikolenko and Viktor Didukh 3-2.
They took on Joshua Stacey and Ross Wilson in the semi-final and from 2-0 down took the third set 11-9 and went on to complete a 3-2 win, 11-8 in the fifth. They faced Banyu Tri Mulyo and Komet Akbar again in the final after the Indonesian pair had surprisingly knocked out the World champions from Ukraine Lev Kats and Ivan Mai in the quarterfinals. Facey and Iwabuchi lost the first set 11-9 but took the second 11-9 to level at 1-1 and were always in control from that point in a 3-1 win.
“It was weird to play against Josh and Ross,” said Facey, “because obviously they’re teammates and they played really well in the first two sets, but we changed tactics and came back so we were very happy with that. We played the Indonesian pair in the group and did really well against them, but it was different in the final because there was a bit more pressure. We played really well and came through in the end and I’m very happy to get the gold medal.”
Wilson and Stacey, playing together for the first time since taking silver in last year’s World Championships, topped their group after beating the Spanish pair of Marlon Lopez and Alejandro Diaz 3-1 and Aviv Gordon and Zeev Glikman from Israel 3-0. They came through their quarterfinal against Pavao Jozic and Borna Zohil from Croatia 3-0 and started strongly in the semi-final but had to settle for bronze after a 3-2 loss.
“The start to the semi was very good,” said Stacey, “we were both very solid and took our opportunities but then my receive massively let us down. Credit to Ashley and Koyo - they changed tactics well and started making us play in a more uncomfortable way and play balls we didn’t want to play.”
“I think we are both a bit disappointed with the outcome,” said Wilson, “as we both thought we should win this competition. But it is more matches played for us and we are still learning and developing as a team, so we’ll take some lessons from this competition and use that to continue to improve. We played OK but there are things we need to work on to progress further so I’m looking forward to doing that with Josh when we get back in the training hall.”
Women’s class 14 RR
Fliss Pickard and Grace Williams have struggled so far this season to reproduce the form that won them the World title in Spain last November, but they began with a 3-1 win against Barbara Jablonka from Poland and Emelie Endre from Sweden and then fought back from 2-1 down to beat Smilla Sand and Cajsa Stadler from Sweden 3-2. They lost 3-0 to Katarzyna Marszal and Magdalena Sutkowska Pawlasek from Poland and had to settle for bronze after a 3-1 loss to Morgen Caillaud and Lucie Hautiere from France.
“It has been another frustrating tournament for us in the doubles,” said Pickard. “I feel when we work well our level is good enough to beat any team in the world - we just need to work better together when we get frustrated or nervous.”
Mixed class 14
Martin Perry and Grace Williams started their new partnership with a 3-0 win against Nicklas Westerberg and Emelie Endre from Sweden and were then beaten in four close sets by Gonzalo Rodriguez and Pilar Gonzalez from Spain, hampered by Perry having to change the foot on his prosthetic leg halfway through the match. They topped the group on countback and received a bye into the semi-finals where they faced Sam Gustafsson and Smilla Sand from Sweden. Having dropped the first Perry and Williams came back strongly to lead 2-1 but the Swedish pair levelled at 2-2 and just had the edge in the deciding set, taking it 11-8 and the match 3-2.
“It was a good experience playing with Grace for the first time,” said Perry. “It was an event neither of us had played in before, so we said we were going to enjoy it and that is what we did. Winning our first match 3-0 was great for our confidence as we didn’t know how our styles were going to match up. To lose 3-1 to Spain was disappointing but it was tight, and changing the foot on my prosthetic leg halfway through the match was obviously a bit of a nuisance. I had a new foot for the semi-final, and we gave Sweden a really good game; it was a good sign that we were both absolutely gutted to lose as we could have made the final so a lot of promising signs for the future.”
“This has been a tough tournament for me overall,” said Williams, “so I’m glad to come away with two medals. Fliss and I played great together in some matches – including coming back to win 12-10 from 7-0 down. It shows great development from where we were in Slovenia so that is a positive to take away. Doubles with Martin was a great experience having never played in XD14. I’m gutted to have missed out on the final, but we showed some good signs for the future.”