Tomorrow is another day

Semi-finals day in the team events in Rio and our focus is the match in men’s class 6-8 team between GB and Ukraine. The ‘Rossie Posse’ has joined the rest of the GB team in the stands and there are chants of ‘GB!’ as Will, Ross and Aaron enter the hall. A band of Ukrainian supporters are sitting behind GB but we have pole position.

aaron-ross-doubles-v-ukrRoss and Aaron are playing class 8 World number one Viktor Didukh and class 7 World number two Maksym Nikolenko in the opening doubles and the Ukrainian pair are looking ominously sharp and focused. As they take a 2-0 lead for the loss of only eight points Will leaves the hall to prepare for the first singles match – or perhaps he just can’t bear to watch.

But then Ross and Aaron start to play the way we know they can and from 0-3 they take the lead at 7-6 when a great forehand from Ross draws a mistake from Didukh. The next few points are shared and at 10-9 Ukraine have match point but Nikolenko nets. Didukh then goes long and another error secures the set for Ross and Aaron 12-10 and they are back in the game.

didukh-viktor-nikolenko-maksym-ukr-wilson-ross-william-mc-kibbin-aaron-gbrThe fourth set is nip and tuck and at 6-6 Didukh nets in response to a great shot by Aaron: 7-6 to GB. But then the umpire takes the point away from our boys because of what he thought was an infringement of the rules and there follows a long discussion between the two umpires and the referee to which coach Greg listens anxiously while Didukh prowls around in circles like a caged tiger.

Finally, the matter is resolved and the point reinstated: 7-6 to GB. Didukh nets his service return and a winning forehand from Aaron takes the score to 9-6 and two points later we have a point to level the match at 2-2 which is converted when Nikolenko nets.

After appearing down and out Ross and Aaron are back on terms and meanwhile in the other semi-final Sweden have won the doubles 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead against China.

Ukraine come out swinging in the fifth and quickly move to 6-1 but Ross and Aaron are still fighting and as they reduce the deficit to 6-7 we start to hope that they can complete what had looked an improbable victory. Sadly for them it is not to be as Didukh and Nikolenko combine to take the next four points and the match 3-2.

The boys now have a mountain to climb and Will is playing Didukh in the first singles. The Ukrainian was a good able bodied player before losing a leg to cancer and having surprisingly failed to medal in the singles here is clearly a man on a mission. It is the first time they have played each other and the first set is all Didukh as he unleashes his powerful shots to great effect.

will-bayley-final-2In the second set Will starts to score with a few shots of his own and clenches his fist as he wins a great rally but Didukh is on fire now and takes the set 11-6. Will is now pushing Didukh and levels at 4-4 but the Ukrainian has the look of a prize-fighter who knows his opponent is punching above his weight and he roars in triumph as he wins the match 11-6 in the third to take Ukraine into the final.

Zhao Shuai has beaten Emil Andersson in five sets to level against Sweden and their semi-final will be decided by the second singles between Ye Chaoqun and Linus Karlsson. There are shouts of delight from the Swedish team as Karlsson beats Ye 3-1; Sweden will play Ukraine for gold and we now know that we will have to beat China tomorrow.

Will, Ross and Aaron walk despondently away and stop on the way to speak to Channel 4. Although bitterly disappointed they have a bronze medal match to focus on and one thing is certain – they will give it everything.