Sue Gilroy, Will Bayley and Rob Davies are all through to the semi-finals in Rio after the evening session on day 3 at Riocentro3.
Gilroy reached the semi-finals of the women’s class 4 singles with a battling win against the 19 year old World number five from Germany, Sandra Mikolaschek. Gilroy, who had never been out of her group in four previous Paralympic Games, saved a match point in the fourth and two in the fifth before clinching a 3-2 win on her second match point.
“When she had match point in the fourth I knew she was going to do a top spin serve because I had missed a few before that,” said an elated Gilroy. “Thankfully I was ready for it. Not getting out of my group in four previous Paralympic Games has been so tough but I just love the game and to come here on my fifth Paralympics to get through my group and to come out today and fight back from 2-1 down and win in the fifth – I’m just thrilled. This is the medal that has always eluded me but I’m just taking it one step at a time – I’m now in the semi-final and when I’ve calmed down from this I just need to start again and focus on that match now.”
Gilroy will play old rival Borislava Peric-Rankovic from Serbia in the semi-final tomorrow in a repeat of their semi-final in the World Championships in 2014 that Gilroy won 3-2.
“I think today was my best performance of this season,” said Bayley. “I felt super sharp and didn’t really let him have any chances in the match so it was good. The semi-final against Morales is going to be a great match. I’ve got to prepare as well as I can and get in the training hall tomorrow morning and be focused. I need to rest up now and be ready tomorrow. I need to be consistent, stay strong and believe in myself.”
Four years after losing in five sets to Jean-Francois Ducay in the group stages of London 2012 Rob Davies gained his revenge with a 3-0 win. The third set became a battle of wills and Davies finally took it 22-20 on his 10th match point. He will play Endre Major in tomorrow’s men’s class 1 semi-final after the Hungarian beat the World champion Chang-ho Lee in their quarter-final.
“I’m relieved and thrilled,” said Davies. “I didn’t want to give him that third end because if you give him an inch he will take a mile. He is one of the top guys in Paralympic table tennis in my class and has been for years and it has been a battle with him for eight years and to get my revenge on him for London is sweet for sure. I don’t want to think about medals yet – I want to play my best in the next game so I’ll put to one side the stage we are at and play that match as I would do any other. I’m just so chuffed because to have to fight like that and come away with it can only be good for me for whatever comes next.”
Fellow Welshman Paul Davies could not repeat his heroics of this morning against Ki-won Nam and the Korean was a 3-0 winner.
“After my match this morning I did something sensible for a change,” said Davies, “and went back to the village and had a sleep and I definitely think it helped. But I can’t take it away from the Korean guy – he played fantastic. I gave it my all and enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward now to next season. I would love it if Rob and I could cause an upset in the team event. We’ve got a good chance – he is playing superbly and we know exactly what each one is doing when we play doubles so we have a definitely have a chance – watch this space.”
After her victory this morning over Edith Sigala Lopez, Sara Head was back at 16:00 for a last 16 match against Helena Dretar-Karic. The Welsh player has a good record against the Croatian and was delighted to secure a 3-0 victory. Her reward is a quarter final tomorrow against the World champion Li Qian from China.
“I’m over the moon,” said Head. “I was controlled, composed, kept to my game and that worked. It was so much fun. Tomorrow I’m just going to warm up as I have for all of my games and approach it in the same way. I’m looking forward to playing her. At the end of the day she is the World champion so in some ways she has the pressure and I am the underdog and I’m just going to enjoy playing my game.”
David Wetherill played superbly against the World champion and World number one Alvaro Valera and had match point at 2-0, 10-9 but the Spaniard took the third set 12-10 and although Wetherill never gave up Valera took the match 11-9 in the fifth.
“It’s a bit raw to be honest,” said a desperately disappointed Wetherill. “I did everything I could. I’ve really struggled this week to find my feeling for the ball and it clicked into gear mentally today. I was so on it and I feel that I played him tactically perfect. The match point was maybe playing on my mind a bit in the fourth – it is impossible not to have it in the back of your mind as you feel it is a wasted opportunity. I don’t think I played badly after that. I had a bad start to the next game but I fought my way back into it well and I think mentally I played really well. I played safe in the match point but that is what you need to do against Valera and I got the ball on the table but I played tactically as I had been doing. On another day I could have won that point and I’d be in the semi-finals but I can be proud of how I played today.”
Aaron McKibbin lost his quarter-final match to Andras Csonka from Hungary but can take plenty of positives from his singles competition into the team event next week.
“I’m happy to have got to the quarter-finals but I’m disappointed that my level wasn’t the same as yesterday. But he played very well and I struggled really. I played the wrong tactics against him but that is how it goes sometimes I guess. I feel much more confident in matches here compared to London and I feel that I have played miles better and hopefully I can support the rest of the team now and take it on in the team event. Hopefully we can do something there because as a team I think we are playing well enough to achieve something.”