World champion Bayley heads strong British squad for Slovenia Open

World champion Bayley heads strong British squad for Slovenia Open

World champion Will Bayley heads a strong British Para Table Tennis squad of 17 athletes that will compete in next week’s Slovenia Open in Lasko from May 9-13. The 35-year-old who regained his men’s class 7 World title in Spain last November will be joined by World doubles champions Paul Karabardak, Billy Shilton, Fliss Pickard and Grace Williams, Commonwealth champions Jack Hunter-Spivey and Joshua Stacey, four-time European champion and Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallist Rob Davies, World medallists Aaron McKibbin, Martin Perry and Ross Wilson and Tokyo Paralympic medallists Tom Matthews and Megan Shackleton.

“Training has been going really well and I’ve been working very hard,” said Bayley. “I’ve been playing lots of league matches for Brighton in British League Division One and the Premier League, so I’ve been getting a lot of good quality matches which is always important before these big tournaments.”

The World number one hasn’t lost a men’s class 7 singles match since the Paralympic final in Tokyo where he was beaten by Yan Shuo from China and is hoping to renew that rivalry in Slovenia next week.

“I’m massively looking forward to it,” he said. “You always want to test yourself against the best players in the world and Yan and Liao Keli are definitely two of the best in the world, so I’m really excited about playing against them if I get the opportunity. Every match now is a final to me and is difficult and you have to be 100% focused to win so I’ll just take it one match at a time. Every style is challenging in its own way, so I need to be ready.”

Also in the British squad for the Slovenia Open are former European team medallist Ashley Facey in his second tournament since returning to table tennis after a year out to pursue a career in cycling, and Pathway athletes Theo Bishop, Romain Simon and Lee York.

“The Slovenia Open is always one of the strongest tournaments in the year,” said BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko MBE, “and it will give us a good indication of where we are as we build up to a home European Championships in September. We had a successful World Championships last year but that is now history and in Paralympic qualification year the competition is increasingly tough. It is good to see the Chinese competing again as they were not at the World Championships due to Covid restrictions in China and they will as always provide a huge challenge. The doubles events are also very important and Slovenia will provide an opportunity for us to try out some new combinations before the Europeans.”

The full list of British athletes competing in Slovenia is:

Will Bayley, 35, - Tunbridge Wells/Brighton (class 7)

Theo Bishop, 19 - Bury (class 7)

Rob Davies, 38 – Brecon (class 1)

Ashley Facey, 28 – London/Sheffield (class 9)

Jack Hunter-Spivey, 27 - Liverpool/Sheffield (class 5)

Paul Karabardak, 37 - Swansea (class 6)

Tom Matthews, 30 - Aberdare (class 1)

Aaron McKibbin, 31 - London/Epsom (class 8)

Martin Perry, 28 - Paisley/Dumbarton (class 6)

Fliss Pickard, 28 - Burnley/Sheffield (class 6)

Megan Shackleton, 24 – Todmorden/Sheffield (class 4)

Billy Shilton, 24 - Stonehouse/Sheffield (class 8)

Romain Simon, 33, South Woodford (class 3)

Joshua Stacey, 23 - Cardiff/Sheffield (class 9)

Grace Williams, 20 - Wrexham/Sheffield (class 8)

Ross Wilson, 27 - Minster/Sheffield (class 8)

Lee York, 34 - Wakefield (class 4)