Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson are through to the semi-finals of the men’s class 6-8 team event in Rio but there was disappointment for Rob Davies and Paul Davies (men’s class 1-2), Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 9-10) and Jane Campbell and Sara Head (women’s class 1-3) who all went out of their respective events at the quarter-final stage.
After beating Belgium this morning Bayley, McKibbin and Wilson faced World Team champions Spain in their quarter-final. Jordi Morales and Alvaro Valero are great players and they used their experience to good effect in the doubles against McKibbin and Wilson, taking the match 3-1. This meant that GB needed to win both of the singles and Wilson survived a spirited fightback by Valera to beat the class 6 World champion 3-0.
With the tie level at 1-1 it was down to Bayley to beat Morales in a repeat of their singles semi-final three days ago. After a tight first set that Bayley took 11-9 after a time out call by coach Greg Baker at 9-8, he took the second 11-8 and was always in control thereafter – taking the match 11-2 in the third to take GB through to a semi-final tomorrow against Ukraine.
“It was one of the most nervous matches I’ve ever had in my life,” admitted Bayley. “I was really happy with my performance because that wasn’t a nice match to play for either me or Morales but I came through it so I am happy for the boys and we can go into the semi-final and just go for it. I believe in the boys – it is not easy to beat Spain as they always raise their level for the big occasion and they were silver medalists in London as well as being World team champions so it was a fantastic result. We won the match, that is the most important thing, and we can go on now and express ourselves and do the job.”
“We should have played better than that in doubles,” said McKibbin, “but they made life really awkward for us and it is not a style we normally play against. Luckily it is a team event and I had so much faith in Ross and Will to win their singles and when it was 1-1 and it was down to Will to finish it I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to win because he looked so comfortable and thankfully the boys pulled through in the singles to make up for the doubles.”
“Valera has beaten pretty much everyone regardless of his disability,” said Wilson. “I’ve always seen him as a great player and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and how he changes his game and adapts to still be a great player. So it was brilliant to get through that match and I really want to push on now and go for it with the boys. We can use that as our wake up call to really get into it and give it a good shot.”
Just over 24 hours after becoming men’s class 1 Paralympic champion Rob Davies was back with team partner Paul Davies to take on Brazil in the men’s class 1-2 team event quarter-final. It was a tough ask against two class 2 players Iranildo Conceicao Espindola and Guilherme Marcio Da Costa and the Welsh pair lost the opening doubles 3-0.
Rob Davies then took on Da Costa and put up a great fight – taking the second set 11-7 to level at 1-1 and recovering from 5-1 down in the third to level at 7-7 before just being edged out 13-15. It was the turning point in the match and Da Costa ran away with the fourth 11-2 to win the match 3-1 and the tie for Brazil.
“No excuses,” said Rob Davies. “I really enjoyed being out there. It is always tough for me and Paul playing in a class up but I’m proud of the effort I put in and I ran him close until that last end. I was really happy with getting to deuce in the third – I needed to win that and then I’d have been in the game and he would have got a bit nervous. I loved the crowd – it was a brilliant atmosphere and that’s why we play. I’m just really happy with the performance and it is a shame we couldn’t have done a bit better in the doubles. But we haven’t had much practice and we’ll work on that for next time and get plenty of practice in and next year we’ll have another youngster Tom Matthews to strengthen the team up even more.”
“It’s a huge difference between class 1 and class 2,” said Paul Davies. “They are a lot fitter and stronger and more agile so we knew it would be tough. Rob played well – fair play he took a set off Costa. We haven’t played doubles together for ages so we played well considering. It is a good step towards the World team championships next year in Slovakia so I think a bit of work is needed. Paralympic champion as a team partner – doesn’t get better than that does it?”
Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson had a tough quarter-final against China but they competed well in the doubles, saving three match points before Lian Hao and Ma Lin took the match on their fourth match point 14-12 in the third. Daybell was also not outclassed by the men’s class 9 World and London 2012 Paralympic champion Ma Lin despite a 3-0 loss.
“They are a very strong team,” acknowledged Daybell, “very sharp. The difference in level didn’t feel that big even though we lost both games 3-0. It is just little things in table tennis. We can come back and shore up our weaknesses and there is no reason why we can’t compete against them. They knew they were in a match – you could see it in their faces – and I was pleased that we were able to play well and hopefully next time we’ll get them.”
“It was an amazing experience,” said Facey Thompson, competing in his first Paralympic Games. “China are one of the best teams in the world in class 9-10 combined and to play against them in a quarter final in a Paralympic Games was great, especially with Kim. We kept fighting and we can be proud of that. It brings me belief and hope and I’ve got to keep on training and trying to play my table tennis for the next four years.”
Jane Campbell and Sarah Head began their campaign for a second Paralympic medal in the women’s class 1-3 team event against Italy – the team they beat to win the bronze medal in London 2012.
The GB pair looked in great form in their opening 3-0 doubles win over Michela Brunelli and Giada Rossi but when Head lost 1-3 to Brunelli it was down to Campbell to play the deciding singles against the class 2 World number four Rossi. She looked to have the first set in her pocket at 10-6 but Rossi took six points in a row to steal it 12-10. The next set also went the way of the 22 year old Italian, who did not compete in London and is clearly an improving player. Her style of play proved difficult for Campbell who fought hard to take the third set 11-5 but could not stop Rossi from winning the fourth 11-5 and the match 3-1 to take Italy through to the semi-finals.
The GB pair were understandably bitterly disappointed particularly after such a dominant performance in the doubles.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Head, “that is table tennis.”
“I think if I had won the first set it would have given me confidence,” said Campbell. “After losing the first set I just panicked a little bit.”