by Francesca Bullock, Press Officer Great Britain Para Team
The Open Standing class was, as expected, dominated by the British Performance Squad.
After recovering from dropping the first game against Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist Will Bayley, Ross Wilson was a straight games winner in the final against Ashley Facey Thompson. One round earlier Ashley Facey Thompson had put up a great performance to beat Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kim Daybell in five games.
“It is a really special feeling to be National champion. It is great to win when the standard is so high now. I think I played well throughout the competition. I’ve just felt more stable lately, playing from within myself and having confidence in my own ability; that is something I have improved lately and something I am going to continue to use going forward.” Ross Wilson
Earlier Ross Wilson had retained his Men’s Singles Class 8 title with a three-nil win in the final against his team partner and housemate Aaron McKibbin; at the semi-final Aaron McKibbin had beaten 19 year old Billy Shilton in a full distance five games duel.
Impressive performances; it was the same from Liverpool’s Jack Hunter-Spivey who has not lost a match at the National Championships for five years; he beat Sue Gilroy three-nil to win the Open Wheelchair title. Additionally, he defeated Dan Bullen from St Neots in the final of Men’s Singles Class 4-5.
“It was a good performance. Every year the standard gets better and better and the competition gets stronger. I’m really proud to be British and really enjoy playing the Nationals. It is important to me to be National champion, to win at the World Championships and Paralympics is my main focus but to be National champion feels great.” Jack Hunter-Spivey
Meanwhile, Sue Gilroy has been the dominant force in Women’s Wheelchair table tennis in the United Kingdom for more than 20 years but in Grantham, she was pushed to five games on two occasions by 18 year old Shackleton. She was full of praise for her young Great Britain Team partner.
“Megan has really come on. I knew it was going to be tough because I’ve only been back in training five or six weeks after major surgery. To win the National title 23 times is a massive thing and I’m really proud to be National champion again. It would be great to see more wheelchair players coming through. Class 4-5 was mixed this year and I certainly didn’t expect to get through to the final but I really enjoyed playing Jack. I am sure Megan will be pushing for the title next year as she is a really talented player.” Sue Gilroy
However, Felicity Pickard received some compensation for just missing out on a medal at the Commonwealth Games by taking the Open Women’s Standing title. She defeated Tamar Pickford in the final in straight games.
“I’m pleased because we are close friends. We know each other’s game inside out. Last year when we played each other it was a huge three-two battle so I just wanted to go about things today with more quality and go forward from what I learned in Australia. I was able to dictate the match and keep the intensity up so I’m very happy. The Commonwealth Games has really inspired me and pushed me on. This is what I want to do now and one hundred per cent I believe that I can.” Felicity Pickard
In the absence of Paralympic champion Rob Davies, fellow Welshman Tom Matthews won his first National title beating Oye Jemiyo three-nil in the Men’s Singles Class 1-2 final.
“I started off a bit slow. It was hard to get into it but I felt that I played well in my second match and really well in the final so I’m quite happy with the way I played to be honest. To be national champion is a big thing for all of us and I’m gutted I couldn’t play Rob but maybe next year.” Tom Matthews
Hard fought competition, it was the same in Men’s Singles Class 6 where European Team gold medallists Paul Karabardak, David Wetherill and Martin Perry were dominant. Paul Karabardak came out on top. He beat David Wetherill in three close games in the final (12-10, 11-9, 12-10) to take the title.
“I had a tough match against Martin in the group. I didn’t start that well but I managed to get into the game and then dictate what I wanted to do. In the final I think it is the best Dave has played against me. I had a bit of luck so I’m very happy to have won the Nationals again. It is one of the tougher classes because we are all highly ranked so it is getting harder to win but as the saying goes ‘iron sharpens iron’ so we push each other and make each other better.” Paul Karabardak
A most creditable performance from Paul Karabardak, it very similar from Will Bayley who did not drop a game in defending his Men’s Singles Class 7 title but had to play well to record a straight games win against Alex Bland in the final.
“I think I played some good stuff today. I was really positive and went for my shots and tried to play at the top level and not to give any cheap points away. That is the way I played so I’m really happy to win another class 7 title.” Will Bayley
Title defended, it was the same for Londoner, Ashley Facey Thompson. He had to work hard to defend his Men’s Singles Class 9 title. He fought back from 8-5 down in the fifth to beat Commonwealth bronze medallist Josh Stacey in the final.
“I’m really happy with the way I played against Josh. He is a rising player and quite dangerous and he makes you doubt your game a bit and then you get nervous. After I lost the first game I believed more and played my table tennis. At 5-8 in the fifth I was just more disciplined with my shots and I was more focused and knew what I needed to do.” Ashley Facey-Thompson
Young improving player, it was the same regarding, last year’s junior champion Jack Stockdale. He took full advantage of the absence of defending champion Kim Daybell to win the Men’s Singles Class 10 title. Similarly, 14 year old Dylan Tynan from Falmouth won the Junior Open Singles title. He produced a great comeback from two-nil down to beat Tamlan Eastwood 11-6 in the fifth.
“It means a lot to be National champion after training all these years, especially winning a title is good coming back from two-nil down. I’ve played Tamlan a few times but this is the first time I’ve played him in a proper tournament and it was a tough match.” Dylan Tynan
Significantly, Jack Hunter-Spivey and Dan Bullen combined to defend their Open Wheelchair Doubles title, defeating Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton in the final by three games to one. Grantham College students Jack Stockdale and Josh Stacey took the Open Standing Doubles title with a three-nil win in the final against Adam Thompson and John Potts.
“I was a bit disappointed to have lost in the singles final when leading in the fifth game but Ashley upped his game and was better than me today. It felt really good to win a National title and even better that it was with a friend as Jack and me study together at Grantham.” Josh Stacey
Pertinently, the evergreen Kevin Plowman secured another National title with a three-one win in the Men’s Singles Class 3 final against his doubles partner Roger Hales. Harry Fairchild beat Andrew Tonkin to win the Downs Syndrome final.
British Para Michael Hawkesworth National Championships: Wheelchair Events (Class 1 – 5)
British Para Michael Hawkesworth National Championships: Standing Events (Class 6 – 10 & Class 11)
British Para Michael Hawkesworth National Championships: Open Wheelchair Events (Class 1 – 5)
British Para Michael Hawkesworth National Championships: Open Standing Events (Class 6 – 10)