The GB team is guaranteed at least three medals in the team events at the Bayreuth Open in Germany which concludes tomorrow.
In men’s class 7 Will Bayley and Billy Shilton topped their group with a 3-0 win against Sweden. After Bayley had beaten Nicklas Westerberg 3-0 Shilton had to fight hard to beat Michael Azulay but after dropping the first set he came through to win 3-1. The pair then combined to beat Westerberg and Azulay in the doubles 3-1.
“It will be a really good chance to play them again before Rio,” said the 27 year old World champion, who lost in the singles to the new Chinese class 7 player Shuo Yan. “I’m looking forward to having another crack at Yan and having beaten Spain and France in Slovenia this will be another exciting challenge for us to try and beat China.”
Ashley Facey Thompson and Aaron McKibbin had a tough first match against Ukraine in men’s class 9 and after McKibbin lost 3-0 to Vadym Kubov, Facey Thompson was beaten 3-0 by World number three Yuriy Shchepanskyy. The GB pair made a good start to the doubles but the experienced Ukrainian pair came back to win the match 3-1 and the tie 3-0.
That left Facey Thompson and McKibbin needing to beat Italy in their second group match to go through to the quarter-finals and when Facey Thompson won only two points in the first set against Samuel De Chiara it looked unlikely. However, the 20 year old Londoner fought back and took the match 3-1 and then after McKibbin lost to Mohamed Amine Kalem the GB pair took the doubles 12-10 in the fourth to move ahead 2-1. Kalem levelled the tie for Italy with a 3-1 win over Facey Thompson and it was then up to McKibbin to win the final singles against De Chiara. He also started slowly and was 10-3 down in the first set but recovered well to take the set 12-10 and the match 3-1.
Their reward was a quarter final against the experienced Netherlands team. In the first singles Facey Thompson took the opening set against Max Van Amerongen but the Dutchman came back strongly to win the next three and the match 3-1. McKibbin, a class 8 player, lost the first set against Ronald Vijverberg, a former World and European team gold medalist, but fought back superbly to win 3-1 and level the tie at 1-1. The young GB pair played really well in the doubles against Vijverberg and World number seven Gerben Last, a former Paralympic, World and European team gold medalist, but were narrowly edged out by the Dutch pair 11-6 in the fifth.
Facey Thompson started slowly against Vijverberg but then started to find his game and after taking a close second set 12-10 he took the next two for a 3-1 win. With all to play for it was left to McKibbin to try and win the tie for GB and after taking the first two sets he held his nerve in a tight third to win it 12-10 and the match 3-0 to earn the chance to play China in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
“I’m really happy,” said McKibbin. “I feel that I’ve been struggling with my level here so I had a talk with my coach before the match and I was really looking to go out there and find my best form – to give my all and leave it on the table and see if my guts could pull me through and I think it did. I’m really happy to have got the two wins and for me and Ash to be in another semi-final is really nice.”
Facey Thompson was full of praise for his team partner. “Overall I think Aaron has a lot to say in the team matches and helps me through so I’ve got a lot to thank him for. We had our chances in the doubles and on another day it could have been ours. I’m happy with everything. It will be great to play China – they are probably the best team in the world so hopefully we can do well.”
Rob Davies and Tom Matthews had a busy day starting with a tie against Germany. Davies gave them the perfect start by beating the former Paralympic bronze medalist Walter Kilger 3-0 but after winning the first set against Marcus Sieger, Matthews lost his way and the German took the next three to win the match 3-1 and level the tie at 1-1. After the Welsh pair had won the doubles 3-1 Davies had to dig deep after losing the first set against Sieger but he fought back well to take the next three and win the match 3-1 and the tie 3-1 for GB.
Their second match against Slovakia was a little more comfortable for the GB pair with 3-0 wins for Davies over Marian Kamien and Matthews over Martin Polkorab and they then combined to win the doubles 3-0 to secure a 3-0 win in the tie.
Against Hungary in their final match of the day Matthews lost in three close sets to Endre Major and Davies then beat Janos Kaiser 3-0 to level at 1-1. The Welsh pair fought back from 2-0 down in the doubles to level at 2-2 but lost the deciding set to leave them needing to win both reverse singles to secure the win. Davies always looked in control in a 3-0 win over Major and it was then down to Matthews to win the deciding match against Kaiser which he did 3-0.
Men’s class 1 team is being played in a round-robin format and Davies and Matthews can take the gold if they win their final match tomorrow against a combined team from Korea and Switzerland.
After beating South Africa yesterday Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton played their second match in the women’s class 4 team competition against India and after Gilroy had beaten Sonalben Manubhai Patel 3-1 Shackleton faced Bhavina Hasmukh Bhai Patel, who had beaten her in the singles on Wednesday. To her credit the 16 year old showed great character to fight back from 2-0 down to take the match 11-5 in the fifth and put GB 2-0 up. Despite a 3-0 loss in the doubles Gilroy clinched the tie for GB with a 3-0 win over Bhavina Patel and the GB pair play their two remaining matches in the round-robin event against Germany and China tomorrow.
Jack Hunter-Spivey and his Turkish team partner Hamza Caliskan had a tough first match in men’s class 5 against China but after Hunter-Spivey had lost 3-0 to former class 4 Paralympic champion Yan Zhang and Caliskan had been beaten 3-0 by World number two Ningning Cao they put up a great battle in the doubles and were just edged out by Cao and Xingyuan Guo 13-11 in the fifth.
Their second match against a combined team from China and Chinese Taipei started badly when Hunter-Spivey lost 3-0 to Heng Cao from China but Caliskan levelled the tie with a 3-1 win against Wen-Hsin Lin and the GB/Turkish pair then combined to win a very exciting doubles match 13-11 in the fifth. Hunter-Spivey secured the tie with a 3-1 win over Lin to put his team through to a quarter-final against Germany 1.
He then gave his team a great start by beating Selcuk Cetin, a World team silver medalist in 2010, 3-1, but World champion Valentin Baus levelled the tie after beating Caliskan 3-1 and the German pair were always in control in a 3-0 win in the doubles. Hunter-Spivey had his chances against Baus and took the second set but the World number three was just too strong and took the match 3-1 and the tie for Germany 3-1.
“I can end the tournament on a bit of a high,” said the 20 year old. “I had a bad loss this morning so I had a word with myself and kicked on a little bit. Cetin is a good win for me and I had massive chances against Baus to take it close so I can end on a positive note. Playing the Chinese is a massive experience – they don’t come to many competitions (in Europe) so it was really good to have the opportunity to play against them.”
Jane Campbell and Sara Head had to take on the powerful Chinese team in their first match in women’s class 3 team and although both acquitted themselves well in their singles Campbell lost 3-0 to World champion Qian Li and Head was beaten 3-0 by World number three Juan Xue. The Chinese pair are World team champions and took the doubles 3-0 to complete a 3-0 win.
Campbell and Head then needed to beat France to go through to the semi-finals and Head began really well against Fanny Bertrand and was 2-1up but the Frenchwoman is an experienced and tough competitor and she came back to take the match 11-9 in the fifth. Campbell beat Fillou 11-9 in the fifth to level at 1-1 but when the French pair won the doubles GB needed to win both reverse singles. Head beat Fillou 3-1 but Campbell could not repeat her win over Bertrand earlier in the tournament and lost 3-0.
“I don’t think we realised how important the doubles was going to be today,” said Campbell, “but it was probably crucial in the end. I feel that there are little things I need to do a bit better – I need to do my angles a bit better and just play with a bit more belief. I need to make everything in my game a bit more solid – things just kept breaking down which shouldn’t have.”
“We haven’t practiced any doubles recently and that showed,” said Head. “They had a few lucky shots but that is the game. You learn from every tournament and that is what it is all about – learning new things and what you can take into your training and improve on. To have done so well and had some good wins is pleasing but now I know how much more I can do so fingers crossed I can build on what I’ve done here.”
In men’s class 10 Lawrence John and his partners Chun Ting Lin from Chinese Taipei and Fattoh Etche from the Ivory Coast lost 3-1 to a combined team from Mongolia and South Africa but John won his singles against Odbayar Khasbaatar from Mongolia 3-0.
A 3-1 loss to France put them out of the competition but John played really well in a 3-1 loss to the experienced Karim Boumedouha and in a 3-1 doubles loss with Lin and has relished the experience of playing in this tournament.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I played,” said the 16 year old from Swansea. “I made a few mistakes but I got better throughout the day and started to play more freely and wasn’t as nervous – I was just enjoying it really. I’ll keep training hard and just try and relax in these competitions. I think I can improve my footwork, fitness, power and shot selection – try not to go to big and make sure I get the ball on the table. It’s been a really good experience and I’ve really enjoyed it seeing all the best players play – it’s really motivational to try and chase them.”