It was business as usual for the top seeds in the final group stages, while one class saw an upset on Thursday, day two (18 October) of the 2018 Para Table Tennis World Championships in Lasko-Celje, Slovenia.
Crowned Pan American champion just under one year ago, Argentina’s Fernando Eberhardt emerged as the player who caused the biggest upset.
The 41-year-old accounted for Great Britain’s No. 2 seed and Rio 2016 champion Rob Davies (11-8, 11-8, 13-11) to secure first place in his group. Davies still was able to progress to the main draw.
“I just wasn’t right mentally today,” said Davies. “I really struggled to get into it and that was the difference in the end. At the moment it is a bit raw. I know I didn’t play as I can so I’ve got to look forward to the next match now. My mentality has got to be better and my return of serve has definitely got to be better and my serving. We knew it was something I had to work on coming in here so I’ve still got lots to do.”
China’s Yan Shuo, the top seed, concluded his initial stage itinerary by overcoming one of the most celebrated names in Para table tennis. He beat Germany’s Jochen Wollmert, gold medallist at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics, in four games (11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8).
Likewise, there was success for Great Britain’s reigning Paralympic Games champion Will Bayley; he overcame Frenchman Stephane Messi (11-7, 11-4, 9-11, 11-9).
Brazil’s Bruna Alexandre and Denmark’s Sophie Walloe had already booked their places in the knockout stages but were both pushed to full five games by Chinese adversaries.
Alexandre eventually overcame Hou Chunxiao (11-8, 9-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-7). In a similar manner, Walloe accounted for Zhao Xiaojing (11-2, 15-17, 6-11, 12-10, 11-8).
“It was a match that I had to win, Walloe said. “I am now number one in the group which means I will be directly in the quarter finals so I am very happy. I had a lot of nerves in the first game here in the World Championships, I hope in the next match I can improve on that and play more relaxed.”
But both will eventually have to meet Poland’s multi-Paralympic, world and European champion Natalia Partyka, who won her Thursday match in straight sets.
China’s Mao Jingdan overcame Hungary’s Zsofia Arloy (11-9, 11-2, 11-4). However, Mao is the only player in the category assured of first place; Norway’s Aida Dahlen, the No. 2 seed and France’s No. 3 seed Thu Kamkasomphou remain unbeaten but each has one match yet to play on Friday (19 October).
The Netherlands’ 2016 Paralympic champion Kelly van Zon advanced after beating China’s Wang Rui (11-9, 11-3, 11-8) to reserve her place in the main draw.
Turkey’s Kubra Korkut, who spoiled van Zon in the 2017 European Championship semi-finals, also progressed in her match.
Just as on the previous day, Sweden’s reigning European champion Anna-Carin Ahlquist and China’s 2016 Paralympic gold medallist Xue Juan topped their groups with no trouble.
The knockout stages begin Friday and competition runs until Saturday (20 October).
Complete reviews from Lasko-Celje are available on the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF) website, and more information can be found on the 2018 Worlds event page.