World and Commonwealth champion Ross Wilson (men’s class 8), European bronze medallist David Wetherill (men’s class 6) and Commonwealth bronze medallist Joshua Stacey (men’s class 9) all took silver in their respective singles events at the PTT Finland Open today and there were bronze medals for Martin Perry (men’s class 6), Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 9) and Fliss Pickard (women’s class 6).
Wilson gained emphatic revenge on Maksym Nikolenko, the Ukrainian World number four who had beaten him in the quarter-finals at the European Championships last month, with a 3-0 win in the semi-final but had to settle for silver after losing 3-0 in the final to another Ukrainian, World number one Viktor Didukh.
“The tournament has had its ups and downs,” said Wilson, “and I would have liked to play better in the final but I couldn’t quite get a grip of the game. It was a good performance up until the final and it was good to beat Nikolenko 3-0 after losing to him at the Europeans. It’s also a positive towards qualification for Tokyo and I’ll look to improve my game so that I can give myself a better chance of taking gold next time.”
Wetherill won his semi-final against the Italian Raimondo Alecci 3-1. His opponent in the final was European bronze medallist Thomas Rau and it turned into a marathon with Wetherill fighting back from 2-1 down to level before the German eventually took the gold 12-10 in the fifth.
“When you play the game of table tennis you win or lose – there is no middle ground,” said a philosophical Wetherill. “The final today was a draw except he won.”
Stacey beat his British team mate Facey Thompson 3-0 to go through to the final where he was beaten 3-1 by the European silver medallist Lev Kats from Ukraine.
“The final was a difficult match to play as I’ve struggled with the conditions here,” said Stacey. “I think I played well in parts but I broke down in the rally too early to bring the best out of myself and the game then ran away from me. Playing Nozdrunov was a first for me so I had to build points slowly to work out weaknesses and I ended up serving very aggressively and attacking first to give myself the best chance of putting him under pressure. It worked really well towards the end of the match and that is what got me the win. Playing a team mate is always difficult and it was even harder as we are sharing a room here. I think I played positively and I was very aware of the tactics I had to use and thankfully I managed to win. Now I’m looking forward to competing with Ash in the team rather than against him.”
“It is weird playing against Josh as we train with each other every day but he played really well,” said Facey Thompson. “My form has been up and down in the singles and my middle game and movement need to improve but I know what I need to work on and I’m looking forward to playing the team event with Josh.”
Perry lost 3-0 in the semi-final to Rau but was able to take plenty of positives from the singles.
“I’ve not played my best,” he said, “but I’m really happy with my discipline at the table. I just tried to do the basics well as I didn’t feel too confident in my attacking game so I was really pleased with how I managed to grind out the victory against Marios. Even at 2-0 down I knew if I could just sharpen up enough to hold the ball on the table I would be in with a chance. My quarter-final was against an opponent from Finland I have never seen before so again I just tried to focus on the basics and place the ball in clever positions. In the semi-final I knew that Rau was going to serve strong and look to attack the third ball and it was paying off for him. By the end of the second set I was dealing with his serve better and I had chances in the third set but I couldn’t capitalise.”
Pickard lost her semi-final 3-0 to the European champion Maliak Alieva from Russia who went on to take the gold.
The tournament continues with the team events that conclude tomorrow.