Ross Wilson defeated the World number one on his way to taking gold in the men’s class 8 singles at the Czech Para Open in Ostrava today and Tom Matthews got the better of fellow Welshman Rob Davies in an all-British final in the men’s class 1 singles. On a good day for the British Para table tennis team Martin Perry (men’s class 6), Joshua Stacey (men’s class 9), Ashley Facey (men’s class 9) and Fliss Pickard (women’s class 6) all took bronze in their respective events.
Men’s class 8
Ross Wilson was a 3-1 winner against the improving 21-year-old Alejandro Diaz from Spain and then defeated Zeev Glikman, the veteran former World and Paralympic champion from Israel, 3-0. He finished top of group 3 after a 3-0 win against Robert Boroleanu from Romania and received a last 16 bye into the quarterfinal where he beat Borna Zohil from Croatia, medallist in Italy and Montenegro this year, 3-0.
In the semi-final he faced World champion Viktor Didukh who had won all 15 of their previous matches. Wilson led 2-0 before the World number one from Ukraine came back to level at 2-2 but the 28-year-old from Minster is showing the form that saw him win World and Commonwealth titles in 2018 and he held his nerve superbly to take the deciding set 11-9 on his third match point.
That took him through to the final against former World number one Marc Ledoux. Wilson had won their last 12 matches and he was always in control in a 3-0 win.
“I don’t think I played that well at the beginning of the competition,” said Wilson, “but I built into it and got better with each match so I was really happy with how I stuck in there and didn’t dwell on my early mistakes. Beating Didukh for the first time was obviously a great result for me – it’s been a long time coming and I’m happy to have won that match but there were plenty of other matches that were difficult as well so I’m really happy with my performance against every player here. Winning a gold medal is a really proud feeling - it’s been a tough year with a lot of ups and downs and a lot of hard work put in so I’m really happy and proud of myself.”
Billy Shilton won his first match against 15-year-old Yehonatan Levi from Israel 3-0 but was then beaten 3-1 by World number 14 Richard Csejtey, the former World champion and London 2012 Paralympic silver medallist. He secured his place in the knockout stages with a 3-0 win against 17-year-old Marcin Zielinski from Poland and received a last 16 bye into the quarterfinals where he lost in three close sets to Didukh.
Men’s class 1
Rob Davies began with a comfortable 3-0 win against the former class 2 Hungarian Adam Urlauber and then came back from 2-1 down to beat the World number 11 from Finland, Timo Natunen. He secured top place in group 3 with a 3-0 win against the unranked Yoon Sangchul from Korea to set up a quarterfinal against his old rival Endre Major. The World number five and European silver medallist from Hungary took the first set 11-9 but Davies recovered well to take the next three 11-5 11-2 11-7 and then produced a great performance in the semi-final to beat World number four Park Sung Joo, gold medallist in the Greek Para Open in April, 3-0.
Tom Matthews lost his first group match in three close sets to Park Sung Joo but progressed to the knockout stages with a 3-0 win against Silvio Keller, the European bronze medallist from Switzerland. He won a close quarterfinal against Natunen 14-12 in the fourth and then recovered from losing the first set to beat World number eight Kim Hakjin from Korea 3-1 to set up an all-British final against his fellow Welshman.
Davies led their head-to-head 3-0 but their last competitive match was the European Championship final in 2017. Matthews took the first set 11-7 but Davies levelled and then edged the third 12-10 to lead 2-1. Matthews came back to level at 2-2 and then proved just the stronger in the deciding set to take it 11-7 and secure his first singles gold since Italy in 2018.
“It was a really close match against Timo,” said Matthews. “He’s improved a lot so I was happy to come away with the win. Neil (coach Neil Robinson) and I did a bit of video analysis before the match against Kim which I don’t do very often but it did give me a bit of an edge and it paid off. It’s always difficult to play a teammate because we know each other’s games inside out as we train together so we knew it was going to be close. To beat Rob is not an easy task. He’s a big match player and has been in a lot more finals than me so to get the win over him was a nice feeling but being respectful we both played really well. It’s nice to get back to winning ways and the signs are very positive heading into the Europeans so I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m really chuffed with this tournament,” said Davies. “Before I came out here, I wanted to play Major and Park – they are both above me in the rankings - and obviously we were hoping to have an all-GB final. It is always very difficult to get to that but today we did it. I was really happy with my quarterfinal against Major, and I lost to Park last time, so I was really chuffed with my performance against him in the semi-final. I was moving a lot better so I’m on the way back and I feel I’ve made some strides this tournament. The final was obviously difficult. Tom is very strong physically and I’ve got to be really clever against him. He played really well, and it was a good final, but I didn’t quite have enough. I need to use more variation against him - he knows what I’m doing as we obviously play together a lot in training. But I’m really happy with the results - Tom has to be happy with gold and I’m really happy with silver to be honest and looking forward to the Europeans.”
Men’s class 6
Martin Perry began with a 3-0 win against Kim SunGil from Korea and secured top place in group 3 with a 3-0 win against the very experienced Valentin Kneuss from Switzerland. He dropped the first set in his quarterfinal against Haris Eminovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina but came back to win 3-1 and fought hard against World number seven Bobi Simion, taking the third set 11-4 before the Romanian secured the match 11-7 in the fourth.
“I’m very happy with how I’ve played out here,” said Perry, “and I played some good games to get to the semi-final. It was good to beat Haris in the quarterfinal because he beat me in the Tokyo World Qualification Tournament, so I know he is at a level good enough to win but I managed to win relatively comfortably in the end. It was disappointing to lose to Bobi again for the second time in a row after Slovenia - I thought I played a lot better than in Slovenia but so did Bobi. I did a lot of good things in the match, but the result didn’t go my way.”
Top seed Paul Karabardak was a 3-0 winner against Petr Hnizdo from Czech Republic and then came through a tricky match against Takuro Chihara from Japan 3-1. His quarterfinal against the talented Piotr Manturz was a replay of the Polish Open final last month which Karabardak won 3-0 but the Welshman could not find his best form here and after taking a tight first set 14-12 the Polish teenager grew in confidence, and he went on to take the match 3-0.
Men’s class 9
Joshua Stacey was a comfortable 3-0 winner against 15-year-old Jan Muska from Czech Republic and then secured top place in group 1 with an impressive 3-0 win against World number six and European silver medallist Lev Kats. As top seed and winner of group 1 he received a quarterfinal bye into the semi-finals and he started well against the World number four Ivan Mai, taking the first two sets but the Paralympic bronze medallist and World doubles champion from Ukraine came back to level at 2-2. In the deciding set Stacey led 5-1 and 10-7 but Mai levelled at 10-10 and saved another match point at 12-11 down before taking the set 14-12 and the match 3-2.
“In the first two sets I think I implemented a lot of my strengths,” said Stacey, “and he seemed to struggle a lot with my serve and my receive. In the next two sets he adjusted well to my serves and he was the more positive player while I went a bit more to the passive side of my game in terms of blocking. I started well in the fifth set, and I started to get a foothold in the game and I felt that I was the stronger player but I fell back into that passive style which gave him the chance to get back into it. Overall, it was a pretty good game – I’m obviously very disappointed with the result and my ability to finish off the game. I just went a bit too passive and allowed him to find a rhythm and that was definitely the turning point. I’ll be looking to change that in the training hall and be back stronger for the Europeans in September.”
In group 3 Ashley Facey won 3-0 against 14-year-old Tomas Novotny from Czech Republic and was then beaten 3-0 by Mai. He secured his place in the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win against Kusnanto Kusnanto from Indonesia and produced a great performance to come from 2-0 down to beat Kats 14-12 in the fifth. He led Koyo Iwabuchi 2-1 in the semi-final and at 10-7 in the fourth had three match points, but he could not take any of them and the World number four from Japan took the set 12-10 and went on to take the match 11-9 in the fifth.
“I was really happy with the game against Kats,” said Facey. “I didn’t start well, missing a lot of receives and not believing in my game as much as I should do but when I was 2-0 down I felt free and that I could go for my shots. I trusted my game and played really well so I was very happy with that win. Against Koyo I did everything I could – in some patches my feet were stuck but the tactics were there and overall, I played really well. I had chances at 2-1, 10-7 but he played really well to come back and these things happen in sport so now it's hopefully on to the Europeans.”
Women’s class 6
Fliss Pickard had won her last five matches against Emelie Endre 3-0 but the World number 11 from Sweden, silver medallist in Italy and Poland this year, fought back from 2-1 down to win 3-2. Pickard showed all her character to bounce back from that disappointment with a 3-0 win against Morgen Caillaud, the World number eight from France, and secured her place in the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against the Polish teenager Barbara Jablonka. She lost 3-0 to World champion Maryna Lytovchenko but the match was closer than the scoreline suggests and the World number one from Ukraine had to produce her best to secure the win in straight sets.
“My level wasn’t great to start with,” said Pickard, “but fair play to Endre she has had a fantastic tournament. I’m happy with the way I bounced back and didn’t drop my head, and this is something I can be proud of. It was great to work with Mat (GB coach Mat Kenny) in the semi-final today – he helped me massively throughout the match and I feel there has been lots to take away from this match and glimpses of what I’m capable of. I’m very excited to play the doubles now with Grace.”
Women’s class 8
In her first round-robin match Grace Williams led 2-0 against 15-year-old Magdalena Sutkowska Pawlasek before the World number 19 from Poland came back to level at 2-2 and take the deciding set 12-10. Williams started well against World number three Thu Kamkasomphou from France, but the World and European champion edged the first set 12-10 and went on to take the match 3-0. She fought hard against Lucie Hautiere, levelling at 1-1 after losing the first 12-10 before the World number 10 from France took a tight third set 14-12 and went on to complete a 3-1 win. The 20-year-old from Llanfyllin finished with a 3-0 win against 15-year-old Olaia Martinez from Spain but finished in fourth place and out of the medals.
The tournament continues with the doubles events that conclude on Saturday.