by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
He beat Jean-François Ducay (13-11, 11-4, 22-20) in a contest that was rather more testing than the score-line may suggest; the phrase three straight games does not do justice to the contribution made by the Frenchman.
Relieved and thrilled
“I’m relieved, thrilled; that third game was such a battle, I was so determined to win that third game; if I’d have lost that game who knows what may have happened”, said Rob Davies. “Any opportunity and he’ll take it; he has been such a great player for over ten years now, one of the best in the world.”
At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Jean-François Ducay is the no.2 seed; Rob Davies is the top seed; they occupy the top two places on the current Men’s Class 1 World Rankings. The reason for the earlier than anticipated meeting was owing to the fact that Jean-François Ducay had finished in second place in his group behind Korea’s Nam Kiwon.
Lost in London
“It’s always tough when you play Jean-François”, added Rob Davies. “Four years ago in London I lost to him in the group stage; then he was the top seed, I was gutted, today was my revenge.”
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games Rob Davies had experienced defeat by the very narrowest of five game margins (11-5, 11-8, 4-11, 11-9).
Saved match point
A hard fought win; it was the same in Men’s Singles Class 6 for both the top seed and for the defending champion.
Spain’s Alvero Valera, the no.1 seed, had to save one point in the third game against David Wetherill, like Rob Davies from Great Britain, before emerging successful (9-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8). Not quite so dramatically but equally tense, Thailand’s Rungroj Thainyom, the London winner, needed the full five games to overcome Alvaro Valera’s compatriot, Alberto Seone Alcaraz (11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 9-11, 11-7).
“David played so well today, the last twice I’ve played against him I have won three-nil; he played smart, there were no holes in his game”, said Alvaro Valera. “It was difficult when he attacked from the backhand with the short pimpled rubber, I had to try to play more to the middle; today I was nervous I wasn’t comfortable, I won through just courage and fight.”
Similar problem, similar solution
Likewise it was a similar problem and a similar solution for Rungroj Thainiyom problems.
“He served long and attacked my backhand, I made mistakes; I had to change my tactics and play to the middle”, explained Rungroj Thainiyom. “The champion in London I am under pressure but I am trying to use that pressure to my advantage; to force myself to be focused.”
Leading names fall
Success for the top seeds in Men’s Singles Class 1 and Men’s Singles Class 6 but there were four players who started proceedings at the top of the list who perished at the quarter-final stage.
In the Men’s Singles events, in Class 4, Korea’s Kim Younggun was beaten by China’s Guo Xingyuan (11-5, 11-5, 11-5); in Class 8 Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh suffered at the hands of Ye Chaoqun, like Guo Xingyuan from China (11-9, 11-7, 11-9).
Likewise in Class 9 another Chinese player was involved in an upset, only this time it was defeat. Ma Lin was beaten by Italy’s Mohamed Amine Kalem (6-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6).
Borislava Peric-Rankovic causes surprise
Three major casualties in the Men’s Singles events, there was one in the Women’s Singles competition on the third evening of play and again China was involved.
Zhou Ying was beaten by Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic (11-7, 11-4, 12-10).