By Gareth James
Charlotte Carey came so close to a huge upset victory in the quarter-finals of the European Olympic Qualifying tournament in cin Portugal.
The 24-year-old from Ebbw Vale had staged a superb comeback from 3-1 down in games against Portugal’s China-born world No 63 Jieni Shao in the quarter-finals.
World No 151 Carey took two games in a row and had four match points against a woman ranked 88 places above her in the lists as she took a 10-6 lead in the seventh game.
Shao, who competed for her adopted country at the 2016 Olympics, levelled the match at 10-10 winning four points on the trot before Carey had her fifth match point.
Then at 11-11, the 27-year-old – who has been ranked as high at 47 in the world – won a highly-disputed point to take the lead with Carey claiming a slick flick off Shao’s shirt not seen by the umpires.
And she then sealed victory, ending Spain-based Carey’s stunning winning run at the event in Guimares.
Victory would have taken Carey within one game of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics as both finalists would book their spots for Tokyo.
But there is another knockout stage to follow on Saturday, giving her a further chance to qualify.
Carey was eventually beaten 6-11, 12-10, 5-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7, 11-13 having come so close to one of the biggest victories of her career.
GB coach Alan Cooke said: “She’s gutted now, but it was an awesome game of table tennis, she left nothing out there.
“She’s played some of her best table tennis here and is living with players ranked in that 50-100 bracket – she can bounce back tomorrow.”
Earlier on Friday, Carey – who was given a first-round bye in the knock-out stage – had swept aside world No 303 Katarina Strazar in the second round in straight games.
Carey triumphed 4-0 (11-8, 11-9, 12-10, 11-8) against the younger Slovenian.
Wales’ top tennis player had qualified for the knock-out stages by storing to the top of her group by seeing off two opponents ranked above her in the world lists.
Carey, who was the lowest seed in the three woman group, beat Slovakia’s world No 139 Tatiana Kukulkova 4-1 .
And that came after an even more impressive victory over world No 71 Debora Vivarelli – 80 places ahead of her in the rankings – 4-2, coming back from two games down against the Italian.