19 October 2018
Wilson, Matthews and Pickard power through to World Championship medal matches
World Championship medals are guaranteed for Ross Wilson and debutants Tom Matthews and Fliss Pickard after the para table tennis trio battled to the semi-finals in Slovenia.
All three will return to the table for Saturday’s medal matches with at least a bronze to take away in their luggage though just one victory stands between them and further prizes.
It wasn’t to be for defending champion Will Bayley however, the men’s class 7 player losing out in the quarter-finals, as did Jack Hunter-Spivey, Ashley Facey Thompson, Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton and David Wetherill.
While Paralympic champion Rob Davies and Commonwealth silver medallist Kim Daybell exited the competition at the last-16 stage.
I knew I was going to have to come in strong from the start and I did.
Wilson eyeing up maiden world final
But there were no such problems for Commonwealth champion Wilson, overcoming world team bronze medallist Thomas Bouvais 3-0 in the last eight of the men’s class 8.
It was a victory befitting the confidence Wilson has developed since his Gold Coast title back in April, knowing just how well he had to play to taste victory in Slovenia.
“I’m really pleased with that,” said the 23-year-old.
“Thomas beat one of the Chinese players in the previous round and was playing well in that match so I knew it was going to be difficult.
“I prepared really well and got in the right mindset straight away and that helped me a lot. It all starts now really.
“I’m seeded to finish third so this was my first goal but I’m looking to do better than that and hopefully I can do that in the semi-finals.”
Matthews had to dig deep for victory
Matthews endures epic comeback
Few in the competition will have endured the drama of class 1 player Matthews however, recovering from 2-0 down and saving two match points to complete a stirring and emotional comeback.
Up against it when playing Italian Federica Falco, it looked as though the Welshman would be making his exit at the quarter-final stage.
But the 26-year-old showed fight on another level to first claw his way back into the match, then turn the screw when it mattered most to guarantee at least a bronze medal.
“I can’t believe I have just done that,” he said. “That was a fight and a half - Falco is an amazing player and I’m so happy right now.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve and I put everything into that last set and hoped that I came out on top and I’m so glad I did.
“I started out a bit passive and was a bit nervous and once my coach calmed me down I started to play my game. That is how I won the match and credit to my coach Neil Robinson for that.”
To come back and win that is just an incredible feeling. I had a bit of a cry at the end - it was an emotional match and the emotion came out.
Pickard shows her class on debut
Slovenia 2018 marks a maiden World Championships for Pickard but the women’s class 6 player has shown she more than belongs at the global table.
Twice a European representative, the 24-year-old is now guaranteed a world medal after beating former global champion and current world No.4 Katarzyna Marszal 3-0.
She said: “I can’t quite believe it. I just had to believe in all the training that I’ve done and I just went for it. I was really nervous but I’m just trying to stick to a game plan and keep positive.
“I just decided to take it one match at a time and I believed that anything was possible but now I’m in the semi-finals I can’t quite believe it.”
I’ve not finished yet so I’ve got to keep going and keep fighting.
Bayley misses out in Slovenia
Paralympic champion Bayley will not be joining his British teammates on the podium though after losing out to Jordi Marales, a man he knows well after numerous battles on the table.
Meanwhile, Facey Thompson admitted he was the second-best player in defeat to Koyo Iwabuchi, while Hunter-Spivey was unfortunate to lose to Paralympic medallist Ali Ozturk, who also beat the Brit at the last European Championships.
It took a Paralympic champion in Borislava Peric-Rankovic for Gilroy to be defeated in the women’s class 4, with teammate Shackleton also impressing in defeat to the world No.1 Zhou Ying in the same class.
Finally in the quarter-finals, men’s class 6 player Wetherill lost out to Hong Kyu Park while Davies and Daybell missed out on their potential in Slovenia.
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