After a disappointing loss to the Brazilian Israel Stroh yesterday Will Bayley went into his second match against Keli Liao knowing that only a 3-0 win against the Chinese player would assure his progress to the knockout stages. The men’s class 7 World number one produced a great performance to do just that and admitted that the timing of the match had helped him.
“It was very difficult to come back from yesterday,” said Bayley, “but I was lucky that the second game was at 09:40 this morning because I think if I had played him this evening it could have been a different story – thinking about it all day and thinking about the defeat yesterday.
“It was vital that I won the first game and he was playing really well – he surprised me with a lot of his shots and I was thinking ‘I just want to try and stay in there and try and nick the first set’. Then I did that and Gorazd just said keep going, keep applying pressure to him because when he starts to relax he is good. He was starting to relax at the end of the third game and I was thinking ‘this is going to be a really close one’ but I managed to just pull it off so I was really pleased.
“It is difficult playing a must win game against a Chinese player who comes up with some powerful shots and I was a bit lucky to win 3-0 because all the sets were quite tight. I just managed to play the big points well and that was the difference really. I think I was solid today – I have another level to go and I’m just delighted to come back and win today.”
Men’s class 1 World number one Rob Davies also assured his progress to the knockout stages with another hard fought 3-2 win against the Italian Andrea Borgato.
“I’m happy to have got another win,” said Davies. “If I could win them all 3-2 I’d be happy although I don’t know whether my coach would be. It was hard work but I battled on and that is the main thing I guess. Chuffed to have finished top of the group – there has been some upsets and I’m glad I’m not one of them.
“I think I have got to get a better feeling for the ball. It is quite flat in here because of the nature of the arena so I have got to work on that – getting over the top of the ball a bit more. Just go in there a bit more positive I think. I’ll have a good rest now and come back tomorrow revived.”
In her fifth Paralympic Games Sue Gilroy progressed to the knockout stages for the first time with a determined 3-2 win against Pi-chun Lu from Chinese Taipei.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Gilroy. “I’m still not playing my best – I always find the group stages really difficult. I don’t know why but once I‘m through that I tend to relax a little more and start playing a little better. Having China and Chinese Taipei in my group was a tough draw but I’ve come through that but now I need to start playing as I know I can and up my game. I just want to put into practice now all the training and the level of play that I know I‘ve got.”
One of the performances of the day came from medical student Kim Daybell in men’s class 10 who held his nerve superbly to beat the World number two David Jacobs from Indonesia 14-12 in the fifth.
“I think in the past my weakness has been that I tend to be negative when it is close,” said Daybell, “so I’ve talked a lot about it with my coach and my psychologist and we decided that if you’re going to lose you want to go out fighting and attacking so that is what I did and it all came good today. London gave me a lot of experience about what was to come in Rio – I wasn’t shocked by the lights and the cameras and everyone being in your face. I feel I’ve grown up a lot in the last four years and I’ve had this year to train full time. Before I came out here I said I wanted to play my best table tennis and leave it all on the table and I think that is what I’ve done.”
Daybell plays his second match against the Dutchman Bas Hergelink tomorrow morning.
On his Paralympic debut Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5) came up against World champion Valentin Baus in top form but after a slow start he pushed the German in the second and third sets despite losing 3-0. He can still progress to the knockout stages if he beats the Brazilian Claudiomiro Segatto at 17:20 this afternoon.
“I feel I could have played a lot better” said Hunter-Spivey. “I was a bit nervous the first two sets and he played very well – he’s on top form. I can improve and I’ve just got to focus on my next match against Segatto. I’ll go back to the village, relax a bit, get some food and prepare for my next match. I’m feeling confident – I think it will be a good crowd and a good atmosphere. To play in front of a big crowd, whether they want me to win or not, will be good experience for me.”
David Wetherill (men’s class 6) played his second group match against the World number seven Thomas Rau and the German ran out a 3-0 winner.
“I was confident going in to the match,” said Wetherill, “because I have been playing really well. It is very hot out there today and I was sweating a lot and couldn’t serve properly or move very well. He is someone who really moves me around and someone I have to work hard against and I couldn’t really do that today which was disappointing.”
Wetherill’s progress into the knockout stages will depend on the result of the match this evening between Rau and the Egyptian Ibrahim Hamadtou.
Welshman Paul Karabardak played his first match in men’s class 6 this morning and was just edged out in a five set marathon by the World number five Hong Kyu Park from Korea. He can still progress if he wins his second match this evening against Matias Pino Lorca from Chile.
“I think I played well,” said Karabardak, “but I had good sets where I played really well and he played not so well and the sets where we both played well he just nicked them. I think I could have done better but he did a good job. I’m disappointed but I’ve got another match to concentrate on so I’ve still got a chance of getting through. I’ll try my best and we’ll see if I can win and get through the group.”
Fellow Welshman Paul Davies also played his first match today in men’s class 1 against World champion Chang-ho Lee and in a repeat of their bronze medal match in London 2012 it was the Korean who came out best today in a 3-1 win. Davies plays the Brazilian Aloisio Lima Junior tomorrow.
“I think I played quite consistently and I didn’t play badly but he played better on the day,” said Davies. “He did catch me out with some of his mid-table services which I wasn’t really expecting but all-in-all I think I played well and I can look forward to the next match and hopefully get through the group. I’m not worried about playing a Brazilian – I can blank out the crowd. If they make a noise they are shouting for me as far as I’m concerned. I’m just looking forward to the next match and getting the job done.”