10 May 2017

Gold was not to be the end result for Great Britain in the Men’s Team and Women’s Team events as matters concluded on Tuesday 9th May at the 2017 Thermana Lasko 14th Slovenia Para Open.

In the Men’s Team events, Paul Davies and Tom Matthews captured silver in Class 1; in Class 8 there were bronze medals for Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson as well as for Will Bayley and Billy Shilton. Likewise in Class 5 it was the same colour for Jack Hunter-Spivey who partnered Norway’s Tommy Urhaug, as in the Women’s Team events, it was in Class 4-5 for Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

However, with the inaugural World Para Team Championships due to start on Wednesday 17th May in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, for Gorazd Vecko, the Performance Director for the Great Britain Para Team, there were far more positives than negatives on which to reflect.

Paul Davies and Tom Matthews, having the previous day suffered a two-nil defeat at the hands of Hungary’s Endre Major and Alan Papirer of France, the champions elect, responded in style. They recorded a two-nil win in opposition to the combination of Argentina’s Fernando Eberhardt and Russia’s Dmitrij Lavrov; before on the concluding day overcoming the Italian partnership of Andrea Borgato and Federico Falco by two matches to one.

“At the end of the day it was our first tournament together so our doubles can only improve. I could have done better with the shorter balls but we’ve had the result we really wanted against Italy to take on to the World Championships. For me it is a cracking result and the young lad did the business to get the final win. This has given me a lot of confidence because I’ve only lost one singles match here and to beat Borgato in the singles and to take him again here in the team is great, I’m buzzing now.” Paul Davies

The crucial contest against the Italians was the win recorded by Tom Matthews against Federico Falco in the deciding third match of the fixture (11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7). The win came after Paul Davies had levelled matters by overcoming Andrea Borgato (14-12, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6). Notably the Italians had won the doubles, the opening match in straight games (11-6, 11-8, 11-9).

“I’m proud that I kept my composure. I didn’t get angry with myself and went with the flow, when he was winning points and just composed myself for the next point. Paul played really well beating Borgato, which was a massive win and it is great to beat the Italians. I’m looking forward to the World Teams now and this is going to give us a lot of confidence. This is the first time we have played together so we’ll work on our doubles. It has got better throughout the tournament and there is better to come.” Tom Matthews

Meanwhile in Class 8, it was a two-nil defeat for Will Bayley and Billy Shilton at the semi-final stage against Sweden’s Anders Andersson and Emil Andersson, as it was for Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson in the same round, when confronting Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh and Ivan Mai, the eventual champions.

Will Bayley and Billy Shilton experienced a doubles defeat (13-11, 11-4, 11-8) against the Swedes, before Will Bayley was beaten by Emil Andersson (11-8, 11-9, 12-10). However, it must be taken into account that Will Bayley is a Class 7 player and was competing against opponents with a lesser disability.

“It didn’t go our way today but we can learn a lot and we have to take the positives out of it. I think I’m better than some of the performances I’ve put it in here. I was playing against high quality players who have won medals at major championships and I was playing out of my class in the team event but I know on my day I can play better than that. However, I have to give respect to my opponent today who played really well. I always want to peak for the majors so I want to win these matches, I’m in a transitional phase in my training and just trying to adapt my game so I’m ready for the European Championships in September.” Will Bayley

“Playing with someone like Will is always great experience. He is Paralympic champion and lives for the big matches, so I’m disappointed to lose but we played a good match and on to the next one now. Being in this whole environment and experiencing the team spirit is really good for me. I’m happy to get a medal and looking forward to the World Teams now.” Billy Shilton

Similarly for Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson, it was an opening doubles defeat against Viktor Didukh and Ivan Mai (11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 11-2), before matters came to a conclusion with Ross Wilson experiencing defeat at the hands of Viktor Didukh (11-5, 11-8, 11-5)

“We had a really good start. I think that is the first time we have taken a game against them and felt really in the match so we can take great confidence from that going into the Worlds. The fourth game got away from us a little bit, they grew in confidence and we found it hard from there. If we could have nicked the third game it could have been a different story. Personally I feel really confident going into the World Team Championships now, taking medals in the singles and team is a big boost for me so hopefully I can go on from here.” Aaron McKibbin

“I think we let it go from 2-2 in the fourth in the double. We did our best and I think we have shown ourselves that we can compete with them so going into competitions like the World Teams and the Europeans later this year; it is a positive thing for us. It hasn’t been a bad tournament for me but I want more and I’m hungry for more and I will be looking for better at the next tournament.” Ross Wilson

Defeat by two matches to nil in the penultimate round for Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson; it was the same for Jack Hunter-Spivey and Tommy Urhaug. Against Serbia’s Mitar Palikuca and Darko Babic, the doubles was lost (11-7, 6-11, 11-7, 11-3), before Mitar Palikuca overcame Jack Hunter-Spivey (16-14, 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6) to cement the win.

“I think I played well overall. Mitar changed his tactics the last few times I’ve played him and I’ve lost three-nil.I feel my weight loss over the winter has helped my movement around the table and I’m thinking really positively in my matches so there are a lot of positives to take. It’s always frustrating to lose in the fifth but I love being in a battle; this time I didn’t win but next time hopefully I will. Overall I think I have played great in this tournament; I’ve worked a lot with the team psychologist and that is going well so I can only improve from here.” Jack Hunter-Spivey

A semi-final defeat for the men in Class 8, it was the same for Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton in the Women’s Team events in Class 4-5.

They were beaten by Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic and Nada Matic, the eventual champions. A two matches to nil outcome was the end result. The Serbians won the doubles (11-4, 11-9, 11-3), before Borislava Peric-Rankovic overcame Sue Gilroy (11-7, 11-4, 11-7) to end matters.

“We are a work in progress in the doubles. We haven’t played together for a year so from the start of this tournament we have started to be better at communicating and rallying a lot more than we were. We were trying to win the points too soon yesterday but it is coming together a lot better so hopefully in future we can do really well as a team. My training has been going well but I’m disappointed with my singles game here because things I can do in training I don’t do in a match so I need to improve.” Sue Gilroy

“We are consistently getting better and better as a team.  We are competing against these players now and we can look to improve on our performance here in the World Teams and I am sure we can do that. I’m really happy with how I’ve played in this tournament and I can see huge improvement from last year. I feel a more confident player and that I can really push these top players now. I’ve had a top 10 win and for me that shows the improvement overall.” Megan Shackleton

Improvement, now the focus turns to Bratislava and World Team Championships; Great Britain travels in confident mood.

2017 Thermana Lasko 14th Slovenia Para Open: Latest Results (Tuesday 9th May)

Paralympics Para Table Tennis 2017 Thermana Lasko 14th Slovenia Para Open