Rob Davies

Wales para table tennis star Rob Davies. Pic: Getty Images

Rob Davies Goes For Fifth European Title, But Is Denied Welsh Showdown

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By Hannah Blackwell

Rob Davies will bid for his fifth consecutive European title at the ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championships in Sheffield on Thursday.

The Welsh star is in the final of the men’s class 1, where he will take on Endre Major of Hungary.

Hopes of an all-British final were dashed when fellow Welshman Tom Matthews was not able to produce his best form in his semi-final against Major, who was a silver medallist in 2019.

The world number eight from Hungary used his experience to establish a 2-0 lead and although Matthews took the third set, Major was just too strong and took the match 11-9 in the fourth when Matthews missed a smash on match point.

Abergavenny’s Davies overcame Italy’s Federico Falco in his semi-final, 3-2, after an epic struggle.

Davies had won the last six meetings with Falco, but the last two matches went to five sets including last year in the World Championships and it was another tough battle again.

The Italian twice came back to level at 1-1 and 2-2, but Davies used all his skill and experience in the deciding set to take it 11-5 and reach another European final.

“I’m really proud of all the results so far,” he said.

“It was a hard match today and I had to dig deep. It was another game of chess, really – I was struggling to get into gear a little bit but as I know from experience sometimes it is just about getting the ball back anyway you can.

“To get to the final is quite unexpected for me to be honest and I’m just really chuffed.

“I used my experience in the fifth set. I didn’t feel as if I was playing great and my heart rate was going, and it was just remembering things from when I’ve been in these situations before.

“I haven’t done it for a long time but in my last two tournaments I seem to be remembering things that I used to do, and I’m really chuffed to come away with the win.

“I’m in a completely different position to 2019 although I probably wasn’t in the best nick then either but I’m still on the ladder coming back and making improvements and I just hope I can perform in the final.

“I’m going to do my best as always and I’m improving all the time in training. I’ve got a long way to go but I can’t wait for the final . I’m just going to keep calm and try and put one ball on at a time.”

https://twitter.com/BritishParaTT/status/1699468058161561985?s=20

A disconsolate Matthews said: “Obviously, I’m really disappointed to have given him a 2-0 start.

”“I haven’t played him since 2017 and to be fair he started really well and I have to take it on the chin and come back strongly.

“I think it was partly nerves. I knew what was at stake but I’m really happy for Rob and let’s hope he can win it.

“I’m proud of the medal but I didn’t want that colour.”

Wales’ Grace Williams had lost her previous eight matches against Lucie Hautiere but the 20-year-old showed great determination to beat the World number nine 3-2 in her final group match to progress to the quarterfinals, taking the deciding set 11-5 after the Frenchwoman had levelled the match at 2-2.

The 20-year-old from Llanfyllin showed just how much she has improved with a brilliant performance against Frederique Van Hoof, the World bronze medallist from Netherlands, playing superbly to lead 2-0 and then holding her nerve in a tense fourth set to take it 15-13 on her fourth match point.

“It honestly hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Williams, “but I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved in this tournament regardless of the outcome tomorrow.”

The British team for the ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championships is as follows:

Aaron McKibbin, 31 (32 on August 27), London (Wandsworth)/Epsom
Events: men’s singles class 8, men’s doubles class 14 (with Martin Perry)
Ashley Facey, 28, London (Stratford)/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 9, men’s doubles class 18 (with Will Bayley), mixed doubles class 17 (with Grace Williams)
Billy Shilton, 24, Stonehouse (Gloucester)/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 8, men’s doubles class 14 (with Paul Karabardak), mixed doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard)
Bly Twomey, 13, Brighton
Events: women’s singles class 7, mixed doubles class 14 (with Will Bayley)
Chris Ryan, 32, Welwyn Garden City
Events: men’s singles class 2
Felicity Pickard, 29, Burnley/Sheffield
Events: women’s singles class 6, women’s doubles class 14 (with Grace Williams), mixed doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)
Grace Williams, 20, Llanfyllin/Sheffield
Events: women’s singles class 8, women’s doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard), mixed doubles class 17 (with Ashley Facey)
Jack Hunter-Spivey, 28, Liverpool/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 5, mixed doubles class 10 (with Megan Shackleton)
Josh Stacey, 23, Cardiff/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 9, men’s doubles class 18 (with Ross Wilson)
Martin Perry, 29, Paisley/Dumbarton
Events: men’s singles class 6, men’s doubles class 14 (with Aaron McKibbin)
Megan Shackleton, 24, Todmorden/Sheffield
Events: women’s singles class 4, mixed doubles class 10 (with Jack Hunter-Spivey)
Paul Karabardak, 37, Swansea
Events: men’s singles class 6, men’s doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)
Rob Davies, 39, Brecon
Events: men’s singles class 1
Romain Simon, 34, Leyton/Chigwell
Events: men’s singles class 3, men’s doubles class 4 (with Tom Matthews)
Ross Wilson, 28, Minster/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 9, men’s doubles class 18 (with Joshua Stacey)
Theo Bishop, 20, Rossendale/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 7
Tom Matthews, 31, Aberdare
Events: men’s singles class 1, men’s doubles class 4 (with Romain Simon)
Will Bayley, 35, Tunbridge Wells/Brighton
Events: men’s singles class 7, men’s doubles class 18 (with Ashley Facey), mixed doubles class 14 (with Bly Twomey)

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