Tokyo medallist Sue Bailey was just edged out of the medals in the women’s class 4 singles at the French Para Open in Saint Quentin en Yvelines today, losing her quarter-final to Joyce De Oliveira from Brazil after a nail-biting final set.
With 23 medallists from the Tokyo Paralympics competing at this factor 40 tournament it was tough competition for the largely inexperienced British squad with the other six athletes going out of their respective singles events at the group stage. However, the Pathway players gained valuable experience and there was a good win for teenager Theo Bishop in men’s class seven although he ultimately did not progress to the knockout stages.
“The singles competition has been both tough and a great learning opportunity for the players,” said BPTT Pathway Manager Shaun Marples. “The standard here has been very high. Sue played some very good table tennis in patches and Joyce is a very steady player who doesn’t miss many balls. We asked the Pathway players to show fight and preparation and there was a good display of this but at the same time there are areas to work on to push the athletes to feel comfortable and believe that they can compete with the top players.”
Women’s class 4
Bailey (pictured above) began with a comfortable 3-0 win against the American Valerie Ann Rolph and started well in her second match, taking the first set against Faten Elelimat 11-5. The last time they met was in the team event in Tokyo when Bailey fought back to win 3-2 and secure her first Paralympic medal but this time it was the former world team medallist from Jordan who proved the stronger in a 3-1 win. That left Bailey needing to beat An Mi Hyeon from Korea to progress from her group and she showed her customary fight and determination to secure a 3-0 win.
She led the head-to-head against her quarter-final opponent De Oliveira 7-2 but the Brazilian world No 9 had won their most recent meeting at the Dutch Open in 2019 and she edged a tight first set 14-12. Bailey took the second 11-6 and the third 11-9 to lead 2-1 but De Oliveira took the fourth 11-6 to level at 2-2. In the deciding set Bailey led 7-2 and 9-4 but point by point the 31-year-old four-time PanAmerican champion reduced the deficit and although Bailey saved a match point at 10-9 down she could not save the second and De Oliveira took the set 12-10 and the match 3-2.
Women’s class 8
In her opening match Grace Williams faced the world No 2 and current European champion Thu Kamkasomphou from France and the 19-year-old from Wrexham pushed the former world and Paralympic champion all the way despite a 3-0 defeat, losing 12-10, 12-10, 11-8. Her second opponent was Sophia Kelmer who had won their match in last year’s French Open in five sets. However, the 14-year-old from Brazil is already ranked 13 in the world and, having beaten Kamkasomphou in five sets in her first match, followed that up by beating Williams 3-0.
Men’s class 2
Andrew Guy was beaten 3-0 by the world No 8 Luis Rodrigo Bustamante Flores from Chile and then lost 3-0 to Teddy Gaudry from France, who had returned to international competition after an absence of 13 years to win doubles bronze at the Costa Brava Spanish Open earlier this year.
Men’s class 4
Lee York was in a tough group and started with a 3-0 defeat by Alexandre Delarque from France, the 2017 European team gold medallist, followed by a 3-0 loss to Genki Saito, the 20-year-old Asian Youth Para Games champion from Japan. His final match was against the world champion and Tokyo Paralympic bronze medallist Nesim Turan and the world No 4 from Turkey was just too strong in a 3-0 win.
Men’s class 5
Competing in his second tournament since London 2012 four-time Paralympian Scott Robertson took the second set against the American Ahad Bakhshaei Sarand to level at 1-1 but the PanAmerican silver medallist went on to win the match 3-1. He was just edged out in a marathon first set against Toru Nakamoto from Japan 17-15 and the bronze medallist in the Japan Open 2019 took the match 3-0.
In his final match Robertson renewed an old rivalry with Tommy Urhaug dating back to 1999. This was their 38th meeting and their first since 2012 and the Norwegian former world, Paralympic and European champion and current world No 3 was too good today although he had to work hard to win the third set 17-15 and clinch the match 3-0.
Simon Heaps is also self-funding and after a 3-0 loss to Hamza Caliskan, the European team gold medallist from Turkey, he started well against Park Jae Hyeon, taking the first set before the 24-year-old Asian Championship team medallist from Korea came back to take the next three for a 3-1 win. After losing the first two sets against Bart Brands he took the third 11-9 but the experienced Belgian who has been in good form this season, taking medals in Spain and Egypt, secured a 3-1 win.
Men’s class 7
Theo Bishop lost his opening match in Group 5 to the world team medallist from France, Kevin Dourbecker, 3-0 but then showed admirable determination to come through a tough five-set battle against Dustin Eier 11-9 in the fifth after the 27-year-old Dutchman had edged the fourth 12-10 to level at 2-2. The teenager from Bury played well to take the first set against Paulo Salmin Filho from Brazil 14-12 but the four-time PanAmerican champion used all his experience to win the next three and the match 3-1.
The tournament continues with the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles events.