Having taken silver in the men’s class 18 doubles, Commonwealth champion Joshua Stacey made a good start to his bid for the men’s class 9 singles World title at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships.
However, newly crowned women’s class 14 doubles champion Fliss Pickard experienced the ups and downs of international sport as she lost her women’s class 6 first-round singles match in five sets and there was also disappointment for Sue Bailey who was knocked out of the women’s class 4 singles.
Stacey (pictured above) always looked in control in a 3-0 win against Bart Van der Zanden from Netherlands and progressed smoothly through to the quarter-finals.
“I’m pretty pleased with that performance,” he said. “I think I was solid from the start and didn’t give him any opportunities to start to dictate the rallies or take a foothold in the set. I felt like I played pretty well and I think my level will go up the more I play on the tables and get used to the environment as a singles player.
“A couple of times I did go to give Ross (Wilson) a serving signal and realised I was on my own. I think it is difficult to change your mindset to singles because when something isn’t going your way in the doubles you’ve always got your partner to depend on but I think when it becomes singles your crutch is your coach and you’ve always got someone there with you who is engrossed in what is happening on the table. I’m not looking too far forward – just match by match. I think I can go far but it depends on my mindset and how I can perform.”
Just over two hours after collecting her medal for winning the doubles, Pickard was back at the table to begin her quest for another world singles medal, having taken bronze in the women’s class 6 singles in 2018. She faced the African champion Hanna Hammad and edged a tight first set 12-10 but the world No 10 from Egypt took the second 11-6 to level at 1-1. Pickard stormed through the third set for the loss of just one point but once again Hammad levelled at 2-2 and it came down to a deciding set. From 9-5 down Pickard edged her way back to 9-8 but a forehand long made it 10-8 and the Egyptian clinched her place in the quarter-finals with her first match point.
Typically, Pickard refused to blame her loss on the emotion of winning the doubles final earlier in the day.
“No excuses really,” she said, “I just wasn’t good enough. It just shows that you’ve got to be on it to beat anyone in the world and my game wasn’t there this evening. She played very well and full credit to her.”
Sue Bailey faced Wassana Sringam from Thailand in her women’s class 4 singles first-round match. The pair had met once before at the Paralympic Qualification Tournament last year when Bailey won in four sets but today it was the 20-year-old gold medallist in France and Thailand this year who proved the stronger.
After racing through the first set 11-2 Sringam edged the second 12-10 and although Bailey fought back to take the third 11-9 and led 6-2 and 9-6 in the fourth the world No 11 from Thailand won five consecutive points to take the set 11-9 and the match 3-1.