It’s another early start on day three as we have three players on at 09:00. Ash, Jane and Sara are all trying to reach the knockout stages of their respective events by winning their second group matches.
Ash has a tough task against the veteran Stanislaw Fraczyk, who was Paralympic champion in 1996 and 2004 and was World number one as recently as 2014. Although Ash has points to win the second set the imposing Austrian uses all his experience and takes the match 3-0. Although Ash is out of the singles he is revelling in his first experience of a Paralympic Games and cannot wait for the team event to start so that he can play another match.
Both Sara and Jane are into a deciding set in their matches. The fifth set runs away from Jane and Hatice Duman from Turkey takes the match 3-2 but Sara is locked at 9-9 with Edith Sigala Lopez and takes the next two points to secure a victory over the Mexican that will take her through.
Our final two group matches involve Kim and Paul Davies. After his great win against David Jacobs yesterday Kim is back in front of the TV cameras to play the talented young Dutchman Bas Hergelink while Paul is prepared for a raucous atmosphere as he is playing the Brazilian Aloisio Lima Junior for a place in the quarter finals.
Kim needs to win one set to progress but if he wins the match he will top the group and take David Jacobs’ place in the opposite half of the draw to the formidable Patryk Chojnowski. Hergelink has to beat Kim 3-0 to progress and he comes out swinging. In no time at all he is back in his corner 1-0 up but Kim doesn’t panic and when he takes the second set we relax a little as he is safely through.
Meanwhile Paul has recovered from the loss of the first set to take the next two but Lima then levels at 2-2. With the Brazilian crowd chanting ‘Braa-zeel’ at full volume and cheering wildly at every point that Lima wins the roof is poised to come off Riocentro3 as Lima has five match points. But it is an old adage in sport that the last point is the most difficult to win and so it proves for Lima as Paul levels at 10-10 then saves two further match points before clinching victory on his first match point.
It has been a titanic battle and the two men embrace – only they really know how tough it is to lose a match like that.
While Paul has been performing heroics Kim has also been taken to a fifth set but he takes it 11-5 and as the winner of his group he will receive a bye in to the quarter-finals. Kim is becoming an old-hand at TV interviews and Martine is waiting to interview him again for Channel 4. It is hard to tell who is more proud – his coach Matt or his parents who are here to watch him.
There are no GB matches for a while but there is a competition of a different kind going on in the hall as an army of Danish fans supporting 16 year old Sophie Walloe in her match against Melissa Tapper are doing their best to drown out the Brazilians cheering on Bruna Costa Alexandre. It’s a close one but the nod just goes to Brazil although the Danes take the prize for synchronisation.
The last matches of the morning session begin and David is playing Matias Pino Lorca, the Chilean who ended Paul Karabardak’s Paralympic dreams yesterday. David is playing well and takes a 2-0 lead but when Pino Lorca takes the third and leads 9-6 in the fourth another deciding set looks to be on the cards. However, David takes the next five points to win the match 3-1 and then heads off to prepare for his quarter final against the World champion Alvaro Valera.
At 16:00 Sara is back in the hall and after her five set thriller this morning she is on her best form and wins her last 16 match against Helena Dretar-Karic from Croatia. It takes her through to the quarter finals and also lays down a marker ahead of the team event next week. Having been up since 04:00 to prepare for the 09:00 start this morning Sara heads back to the village for an early night.
As 17:30 approaches the tension mounts as the quarter-finals are about to start. Sue and David are up first and after a few stretching exercises David starts slowly against World champion Valera but fights his way back to take the first set and Sue has lost the first set against the talented young German Sandra Mikolaschek.
David is playing superbly and is 2-0 up and at 10-9 in the third he has match point to take out the World number one. But Valera is not done and having saved that he takes the set and slowly starts to use all his experience to take control of the match. David admits afterwards that subconsciously he is thinking about the match point in the fourth set and it turns out to be the turning point in the match.
Although desperately disappointed to lose out on a place in the semi-finals David can be very proud of his performance and his day will surely come.
Meanwhile Sue is involved in her own drama as she faces match point against Mikolaschek in the fourth. But the pride of Barnsley has the look of a woman on a mission and she saves that and with a shout of ‘Come On!’ takes the match into a deciding set. At 10-8 down she is facing the end of her Paralympic dream but she digs deep and when she gets a second chance to win the match she takes it and is into the semi-finals.
As Sue exits the arena Will has already started his quarter final against the Egyptian Sayed Youssef and he calms our nerves with a sparkling performance to take the match 3-0. The noise in the hall reaches a crescendo as Will’s conqueror in the group stages Israel Stroh, who had earlier defeated former European champion Mykhaylo Popov in the last 16, completes a famous victory over the World number two Maksym Nikolenko. The Brazilian looks as if he can scarcely believe that he is in the Paralympic semi-finals at his home Games.
So Will is through to a semi-final against Jordi Morales of Spain and Davies and Davies are doing their best to join him. Paul Davies is beaten 3-0 by Ki-won Nam but after missing two years through injury the London 2012 bronze medalist admits that just competing in Rio is the realisation of a dream.
Memories of London 2012 are surely playing through Rob’s mind as he faces the Frenchman who ended his Paralympic hopes four year ago, Jean-Francois Ducay. Rob takes a 2-0 lead but Ducay is a fierce competitor and throws everything at Rob in the third, which turns into a marathon that Rob finally takes on his tenth match point 22-20.
Our final match is Aaron’s quarter final against Andras Csonka. Sadly for him he cannot produce the form that saw him beat Marc Ledoux so comprehensively last night but he will be back with Will and Ross in the team event next week and has certainly stepped on since London.
On an evening of shocks there are defeats for Chinese world number one Ma Lin in men’s class 9, men’s class 8 World number one Viktor Didukh and men’s class 1 World champion Chang-ho Lee. Further proof as if we needed it that sport is no respecter of reputations and Paralympic medals are not easily won.