Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson put up a battling performance against Ukraine in the semi-final of men’s class 6-8 team but fell just short and will play for a bronze medal tomorrow against China, who lost their semi-final to Sweden.
The modern format of team events puts even more emphasis on the doubles and it was the Ukrainian pair of class 8 World number one Viktor Didukh and class 7 World number two Maksym Nikolenko who started the best and they took the first two sets 4 and 4. However, McKibbin and Wilson slowly started to work their way back into the game and after winning a tense third set 12-10 they took the fourth 11-7 to level at 2-2.
The momentum was with GB but Ukraine were quick to put the loss of the third and fourth sets behind them and quickly moved to 6-1 in the deciding fifth. From 7-2 down McKibbin and Wilson again battled back to within a point but Didukh and Nikolenko were not to be denied and they took the set 11-6 and the match 3-2.
That left GB needing to win both singles and the first featured Bayley against Didukh. The class 7 World number one had never played the class 8 World number one and the Ukrainian simply had too much power for the class 7 World and Paralympic champion. As always Bayley kept fighting and pushed Didukh in the second and third sets but could not prevent him taking the match 11-6 in the third.
“I think we gave ourselves a chance,” said Wilson. “They got their tactics right at the beginning and were making us struggle but we started coming up with some answers and put them under pressure. We had great support from the crowd which put them under pressure as well. We gave it our absolute best shot and it really is disappointing that it wasn’t enough today. We’ll be back up and ready for it tomorrow.”
“We believe we are one of the best doubles teams in the world,” said McKibbin, “and we are just very disappointed that it took us so long to get going. If we can go into tomorrow playing as we did in the second half of the game we are good enough to beat anyone. It is down to us believing in each other and just going for it. We’ve got a great opportunity tomorrow and we just need to refocus.”
“It was a tough match against Didukh and I knew it would be,” admitted Bayley. “I started to know what he was doing to me and started to understand but it was difficult when you are 2-0 down to the World number one in class 8. He stitched me up in the first two sets so when you go 2-0 down to a player of that quality you are up against it and he was relaxed after winning the doubles. We didn’t do what we needed to do today but we’ve just got to go again and try and win tomorrow. We’ll come back fighting and we’re looking forward to it.”