No. 27: Rob Davies vaults to table tennis world No. 1

From winning double gold at the European Championships to topping the world rankings, Great Britain’s Rob Davies explains the best year of his life. 05 Dec 2013
Upper body of man playing table tennis

British table tennis player Robert Davies.

By Liam Norcliffe | For the IPC

“I won’t be giving up my world No. 1 ranking easy. I would like to keep that.”

“The year 2013 has been the best of my life – it has been a dream come true,” said British table tennis player Rob Davies.

Davies, 29, is now the world No. 1 table tennis player in men’s Class 1 after becoming European champion in Italy in September for the very first time.

At the 2013 ITTF Para-Table Tennis European Championships, Davies combined with teammate Paul Davies, who he beat in the singles final, to take gold in the team event just five days later.

Davies said: “I’m almost happier for the people around me who have helped me – family, friends and coaches. I know I’ve got a way to go yet and other things I want to achieve – winning European gold and reaching world No. 1 were two of my targets – but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. “

Davies was confirmed as the world No. 1 in Class 1 In October, replacing Paralympic and world champion, Holger Nikelis of Germany, who he defeated in the semi-finals in Lignano.

“To be honest probably being world No. 1 means more to me as it makes me feel that I’m up there with the guys who have been my idols and who I was struggling to beat last year,” he said. “Winning European gold was nice, but being world No. 1 is special.”

Davies had to overcome namesake and fellow Welshman, Paul, in the European final and he did so, winning 3-0. The two are teammates and friends away from the table.

Although rivals for the singles title, they won gold together in the team event, beating Germany, 3-1, and Italy, 3-0, to become European champions.

“It was weird playing Paul in the final of the singles,” Davies said. “We almost felt that we had won before the final as we had both got there.

“When we play in practice it can go either way and although we had both thought it would be the perfect final if we played each other we never really thought it would happen. It was brilliant to then win the team event together. We couldn’t have done any better.

“It was more emotional after the singles final – that’s when it hit me. Before the match I was so focused and that’s how we train. You develop tunnel vision. You are just focusing on winning each match.

“I was a bit upset afterwards as I didn’t like beating him and it was strange not to have a coach in the corner during the match or to cheer when I won a point.”

Davies praised his coaches, who helped him recover from the disappointment of losing in the group stages at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Greg Baker, head coach of the British para-table tennis team, was not comfortable with allowing himself to take all the plaudits however, as he paid tribute to the sheer determination of Davies.

“Rob has had an excellent year, especially in terms of performance, attitude and application,” Baker said. “He has used the London 2012 experience to make him stronger and to refocus his energy on becoming the best player he can be.

“Rob has moved from No. 7 in the world rankings in January 2013 to No. 1 in October 2013 after being crowned European champion. In any Olympic or Paralympic sport, this upwards trend to the top takes huge amounts of professionalism and consistent world-class performances. “

It will be difficult for 2014 to eclipse the success of “the best year of his life,” but Davies has already set his sights on his next title and he had a message for his opponents.

“My main target for 2014 is the World Championships in China,” he said. “It would be great if Paul and I could get to the final again and win the team event.

“I won’t be giving up my world No. 1 ranking easy. I would like to keep that.”