Van Zon shows strong form ahead of Europeans

The Dutch Para table tennis player won double gold at the Slovenia Open. 10 May 2017
Female table tennis player celebrates after a point

Netherlands' Kelly van Zon was one of a number of favourites to miss out in 2017

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By IPC and GB Para Table Tennis Team

Paralympic champion Kelly van Zon wrapped up a successful showing at the Slovenia Open, securing her second gold in Lasko on the last day of the tournament on Tuesday (9 May).

The Dutch double-Paralympic champion won both the women’s class 7 singles and team event, continuing an unbeaten streak so far this year after also taking singles gold at the Lignano Masters Open in Italy March.

It was also a good dress rehearsal for van Zon, and other European Para table tennis players looking to return to Lasko on 26 September, when the European Championships take place.

Looking to also return t is Sandra Paovic. The reigning Paralympic champion had no trouble sweeping the women’s singles class 6 finals this past week. The 34-year-old Croatian was also coming off a victory in Lignano and appears poised to make it three straight European titles this year.

The Ukrainian men were especially triumphant at the Slovenia Open, capturing four singles titles.

The men’s class 7 finals featured an all-Ukrainian showdown with Maksym Nikolenko defeating Mykhaylo Popov, who upset Rio 2016 champion Will Bayley of Great Britain in the semi-finals.

Seeking redemption later in the tournament, Bayley doubled up with compatriot Billy Shilton in the team event but the duo did not get past the quarterfinals.

“I think I’m better than some of the performances I’ve put it in here,” said Bayley after his first international competition of the season. “I was playing against high quality players who have won medals at major championships and I was playing out of my class in the team event but I know on my day I can play better than that.

“But I have to give respect to my opponent today who played really well. I always want to peak for the majors so I want to win these matches I really do but I’m in a transitional phase in my training and just trying to adapt my game so I’m ready for the European Championships in September.”

Spain’s multi-Paralympic, world and European champion Alvaro Valera had a promising season debut. In his first competition since taking runner-up at Rio 2016, the Spaniard defeated Thailand’s reigning Paralympic bronze medallist Rungroj Thainiyom in a tight 3:2 battle.

Similar to van Zon, Brazil’s Bruna Alexandre also left with a pair of golds in the women’s singles and team class 10 events.

Double bronze medallist from Rio 2016, Alexandre teamed up with compatriot Danielle Rauen to capture the team event in Lasko, showing strong potential for next week’s World Para Team Championships, beginning 17 May in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Complete results from the Slovenia Open can be found on the International Table Tennis Federation’s website for team and singles events.