World Championships Beijing Blog #7

20140903_113118-1Monday, September 9: We wake to blue skies and sunshine this morning which always creates a feeling of optimism. The first day of competition has finally arrived and it’s time to get down to business.

Tim has been given the responsibility of creating a GB area in the competition hall stands and there are Union Jacks set out to mark our territory. Play starts at 09.30 but first up for GB is Sue at 10.10 and she gives us a great start by winning her first match against Piyawan Thinjun from Thailand 3-0. Some of the players come in to give their support and get a feel for the atmosphere.

Next up is Aaron who is taking on the world number one from the Ukraine, Viktor Didukh. He starts well and has three points to win the first set but loses it 13-15. Undaunted he takes the second 11-9 to level the match and is playing well but Didukh played able bodied table tennis before losing his leg to cancer and uses all his experience to win the next two sets and the match 3-1. Aaron is disappointed to lose but played well and will take all the positives from the match into his second tomorrow.

Rob is cheered by the GB camp as he enters the hall for his first match against Endre Major and he makes a good start by winning the first set 11-9. But the Hungarian is playing well and using clever tactics and levels the match by the same score after Rob lets a 6-1 lead slip. Our hero wins the third comfortably and we hope that he will now assert himself but Major is not giving up and levels the match again 11-7.

There are some nervous GB supporters in the stands now and the tension increases as the fifth set is nip and tuck. Rob has a match point at 10-9 and again at 11-10 but Major stands firm and then has his own match point at 12-11. Rob saves it with a great serve and then punches the air as he clinches the set 14-12 and the match 3-2.

It’s been a tough first match but Rob has proved again what a fighter he is and heads back to the accommodation block to get some food and prepare for his second match this afternoon.

Thankfully Will calms the nerves within the GB camp with a 3-0 win against Samuel Shur. The Israeli can be a tricky opponent but Will looks sharp and focused throughout. Next up for him is old rival Jochem Wollmert and Will too heads off to have some food and prepare for the challenge of taking on the double Paralympic champion.

After a quick lunch the GB support team heads back into the hall where Jane is playing Anna-carin Ahlquist. She makes a great start against the world number one and Ahlquist’s coach clearly thinks so too as he calls a time-out with Campbell leading 7-5 in the first set. Whatever he says seems to work as Ahlquist recovers her composure to win the first 11-9 and goes on to take the match 3-0. Although disappointed Jane feels she is playing well and now has until tomorrow to prepare for her second match against Dretar from Croatia.

The GB territory in the stands is diminishing as first the Japanese and then the Swedish invade ‘our’ seating. It is now stiflingly hot in the competition hall and Jack is next up against world number three Ali Ozturk from Turkey. He makes a slow start, losing the first two sets 8 and 6 but fights back to take the third 11-7. The fourth is very close but the experience of Ozturk prevails and he takes the set 11-9 and the match 3-1. Nevertheless it is a fighting performance from the 19 year old in his first World Championships and he can still qualify from the group if he beats Eremenko from Israel tomorrow.

The biggest shock of the tournament so far sees Paralympic champion and world number one Tommy Urhaug lose 3-0 to Lin from Chinese Taipei which just reminds us that every match at a Worlds is tough and anyone can lose.

Aaron and Kim prepare for their matches in the busy warm-up hall

Aaron and Kim prepare for their matches in the busy warm-up hall

Kim’s parents arrive in time to see him play the number five seed Karabec and he puts up a great performance to take the match 3-1 and put himself in with a great chance of topping his group. At the same time Sue wins her second match and becomes the first GB player to qualify for the knockout stages by beating the Brazilian Joyce Oliveira 3-0. It is a great win for her and she can look forward to a good night’s sleep knowing she is through to the next round.

At 17.05 Rob is back in the hall to play Silvio Keller from Switzerland and thankfully for those of us with a nervous disposition it is a much more comfortable 3-0 win and he too is safely through to the knockout stages tomorrow.

Gorazd calls a time-out in Will's match against Wollmert

Gorazd calls a time-out in Will’s match against Wollmert

The anticipation is now building for Will’s match against Wollmert - a rematch of their London 2012 final. The German may have dropped down the world rankings but he looks ready for this and in good form as he wins the first set 11-5. Will responds by changing his tactics - taking the pace off the ball and moving Wollmert around and it works as he takes the second set 11-2. The third set looks to be going the same way but Wollmert then wins several points in a row and at 8-6 Gorazd calls a time-out. Will then takes the set 11-8 and goes on to take the fourth by the same score and the match. It’s a great result and a great fight back by Will who is happy and relieved to have beaten the man who has so often been his nemesis.

While Will is playing we also have one eye on Paul who has the misfortune to find world number one Maksym Nikolenko in ominously good form and loses 3-0. Although disappointed he now focuses on his second match tomorrow; hopefully he can win that and join Will in the next round.

With around an hour and a half before our last match most of the team head to the dining hall but at 19.55 we are back to cheer on Sara who has a tough opening match against home favourite and reigning world champion Qian Li. Li wins the first set 11-5 but Sara starts well in the second and takes the lead before Li comes back to take it 11-7. Rob, Will, Jack, Jane and Sue are also here to cheer her on and she scores with some great forehands in the third but Li is a tough opponent and takes the set 11-6 and the match 3-0.

There are still a few matches going on as we troop back to the accommodation block and darkness has fallen. Our first match tomorrow is at 09.30 when Jack takes on Eremenko for a place in the knockout stages. It’s going to be another long day but hopefully another good one for GB.