by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Arguably the results are somewhat harsh; both contests were hard fought.
Against the Koreans, the doubles was secured (3-11, 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 11-7), before Francisco Javier Lopez was beaten by Kim Junggil (10-12, 11-8, 12-10, 11-6) and Manuel Robles lost to Kim Kyungyoung (11-9, 13-15, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6).
It was a somewhat similar against France, closely fought matches; the doubles was lost in four games (11-13, 12-10, 11-9, 15-13), before Francisco Javier Lopez, after winning the opening two games, suffered at the hands of Alexandre Delarque (8-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9).
A notable comeback by Alexandre Delarque, it is a more notable comeback by Manuel Robles; now 58 years old, the last time he played in an international competition was the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
“I was playing in a club in Granada; the club was closed down so I had to look for a job, while working, there is barely time to train and compete at a high level, so I eventually stopped playing internationally.” Manuel Robles
In Bratislava it is a return to action but not necessarily in the role he anticipated; he is the late replacement for Bilal El Baqqali.
“I was supposed to come as a coach for the Class 5 events, but one of the players pulled out so I replaced him. I have been playing local leagues in Spain so I accepted the invitation.” Manuel Robles
Notably when the chance arose, Manuel Robles was particularly strong from the forehand and did not appear to be that ring rusty; one would not have thought that it was approaching 13 years since his most recent international.
“Technically, I feel pretty good. However, when the match got tight, I found it tough to win against the better players due to lack of competition.” Manuel Robles
However, the absence from competition is to be balanced with experience; he was crowned European champion in 1983 in the Netherlands, an age before the current classification system was introduced.
Later, always competing in Men’s Singles Class 5, he was crowned European champion in 2001 in Frankfurt, having earlier at both the Barcelona 1992 and Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games been a bronze medallist.
“There is a vast improvement in organisation, and that is very important for Para players. In terms of the sports, there are more players now, which also means tighter competition between players. The level of play has also increased. I hope in the future there will be more support for players, so that players can dedicate more time to practise and competing at a high level.” Manuel Robles
Third place in the group; Francisco Javier Lopez and Manuel Robles proceed to compete in the consolation event.
2017 World Para Team Championships: Draw and Latest Results