Josh adds a Bronze Team Medal to the Tally in Slovenia
Men’s class 9 Team
Facey Thompson and Stacey came through a nail-biting doubles match against the World team silver medallists from Japan 13-11 in the fifth after Koyo Iwabuchi and Nobuyuki Suzuki had saved six match points. World number eight Iwabuchi took bronze in the World championships last year and he levelled with tie with a 3-1 win against Stacey, 12-10 in the fourth. That left Facey Thompson to play Suzuki in the deciding singles but the 24 year old Londoner could not find his best form and was beaten 3-1.
“Josh and I played well in the doubles but sadly I did not play well in the singles,” said a disappointed Facey Thompson. “I haven’t played well at all this tournament and didn’t really trust my game at all. But I will go back home, train hard and hope to improve for the Polish Open later this month.”
“I really enjoyed playing with Ash,” said Stacey, “it was a really positive event for both of us and we were unlucky not to have managed to win the semi-final. It was nice to play a team event in our own class just to test ourselves against the best and see where our level is. I think as a whole I’ve put myself in a good position to push into the top 10 in the world. Beating Perez and losing a close match in the semi-final of the singles to Kalem shows my level of match play is rising and what I’m doing in the training hall is working.”
Gold for Paralympic champion Will Bayley in men’s class 7 was the highlight of the singles events at the PTT Slovenia Open in which the British team took a total of seven medals including silver for Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6) and bronze for Rob Davies (men’s class 1), Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5), Ross Wilson (men’s class 8), Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 8) and Josh Stacey (men’s class 9).
With nearly 450 athletes competing here including 16 Paralympic gold medallists from Rio 2016 this is the biggest Para table tennis tournament outside of the major championships and the strongest competition that the British team will face before the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Karabardak produced a brilliant display in the last 16 to beat the World and Paralympic champion Peter Rosenmeier from Denmark 3-1 and then survived a fightback from Valentin Kneuss to beat the Swiss player 11-7 in the fifth. World number four Hong Kyu Park from Korea knocked Karabardak out of the singles in Rio in five sets but today it was the 33 year old from Swansea who proved the stronger to take their semi-final 11-3 in the fifth. In the final against Alvaro Valera he levelled at 1-1 before the Spanish World number one showed all his talent and experience to take the match 3-1.
“Losing the final was disappointing but I’m really pleased to have won silver,” said Karabardak.
After winning his group yesterday Rob Davies received a bye into the quarter finals where he played Fernando Eberhardt. The World bronze medallist is a tough opponent and Davies had to dig deep to win 11-8 in the fifth after the Argentinian had fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2. In the semi-final he faced the newly crowned World champion Hyeon Uk Kim for the first time and the 23 year old Korean just edged a tremendous battle 12-10 in the fifth.
“Like any sportsperson I’m never happy losing but I have lots to work on and I knew that before coming out here,” said Davies. “I really enjoyed playing in the semi-final against the World champion – that’s why I’m still playing as those matches are the ones you want to be involved in. I will work hard to hopefully be on the other side of that result in Tokyo! I’m proud to have come through a tight quarter-final and there are a lot of positives to take from the event for me. I’ll get prepared for the team event now where I hope to get a chance to play some more of the top guys in my class.”
After beating World number three Juan Bautista Perez Gonzalez yesterday Stacey received a bye into the quarter-finals where he beat Wong Chi Yin from Hong Kong 3-0 to set up a semi-final against Mohamed Kalem, the Italian who had won their previous three meetings including the final of the Italian Open in March. Although Stacey took a close first set the World number four used all his power and experience to take the match 3-1.
“I was really happy with the way I played to beat Perez and as a whole throughout the event,” said the 19 year old Welshman. “Taking bronze in such a strong event has given me a lot of confidence. Against Kalem I felt I was always in with a good chance but he covered the table really well with the anti-spin and I struggled to deal with it at times. Overall I could have received a bit more positively and looked to attack with my forehand which would have put him on the back foot. But he was the better player and I’m sure I’ll get the chance to play him again throughout the year to put those things right.”
Paul Davies and Tom Matthews (men’s class 1) lost in the last 16 to Sung Joo Park from Korea and the Italian Andrea Borgato respectively.
The tournament continues with the team events that conclude on Saturday.
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