The Lignano Masters Para Open in Italy subsequent week (March 15-18) is the beginning of Paralympic qualification for 9 members of the British Para Desk Tennis Crew Efficiency Squad, together with world champions Fliss Pickard and Billy Shilton, Rio Paralympic champion Rob Davies, Tokyo medallists Megan Shackleton, Jack Hunter-Spivey and Tom Matthews and World Championship medallists Aaron McKibbin and Martin Perry.
Shilton took gold with Paul Karabardak within the males’s class 14 doubles on the World Championships in Spain final November (see image above) and having reached a profession excessive of world No 7 in males’s class 8 is hoping to consolidate his doubles kind in singles this yr.
“It was a tremendous second for me and Paul to grow to be world champions,” stated the 24-year-old from Stonehouse in Gloucestershire, “and I’ve used that as motivation for my coaching over the winter, particularly as I used to be a bit disenchanted with my singles efficiency and that has actually pushed me on.
“Being world champion has given me the assumption that I can do it and I need to carry that into my singles extra. I had a few good wins final yr that obtained me over the road in qualifying for the Worlds and I really feel fairly assured about Italy.
“I’ve all the time targeted extra on taking part in nicely than outcomes – I simply need to play the perfect I can and play my recreation and I do know that’s adequate to beat anybody. If I can give attention to that and never let the strain of qualification overrun my ideas, I feel I’ll have season.”
After profitable group medals at Paralympic, world and European degree McKibbin gained his first main singles medal when taking bronze within the males’s class 8 singles on the World Championships and has additionally reached a profession excessive rating of world No 4. The 31-year-old Londoner, now primarily based in Epsom, is concentrating on one other singles medal in Paris.
“I’m clearly very proud to have gained my first main singles medal,” he stated, “and I do know it’s a good achievement, nevertheless it exhibits the place I consider I’m that I’m not proud of the consequence. 5 or 6 years in the past I might have been over the moon with it, however during the last couple of years my degree has been bettering and I’m aiming for larger issues now and I consider I’ve obtained the power to go additional.
“I deal with each event as necessary and I need to win all the pieces I play in. I’ve obtained a fantastic alternative in Italy – with my rating I’ll be one of many prime three seeds and I’ll should get used to that and it’ll put me in fine condition for the Europeans.
“I‘ve performed lots of home competitions like British League and Grand Prix for the reason that World Championships which is kind of distinctive for me as usually I might simply have been coaching by way of the winter so I really really feel fairly match sharp already and I’m trying ahead to Italy.”
Having obtained a wildcard to compete within the World Championships, Perry produced the efficiency of his life to take bronze within the males’s class 6 singles. The 28-year-old from Paisley is now targeted on qualification for his first Paralympic Video games in Paris and consolidating his place on the planet’s prime 10 for the primary time.
“I went to the World Championships with one thing to show,” he stated, “and that efficiency was positively a stepping stone for me to hopefully go on and do even higher issues sooner or later. Coaching has been good and I’m actually trying ahead to taking part in Italy – I really feel I’ve improved and hopefully I can present that on the desk. Finally there are usually not going to be any simple matches this yr due to what it means to everybody attempting to qualify for Paris.
“There may be all the time strain to qualify and that hasn’t modified. We don’t know the factors but – I’m quantity 10 on the planet however so far as I do know that is probably not adequate to qualify so we have now to take each match because it comes and never take something with no consideration.
“I don’t need to be content material with 10 on the planet – I need to be larger. The World Championships has positively given me confidence and self-belief, however I need to enhance and win extra medals and naturally I need to be representing ParalympicsGB in Paris – that’s the aim and hopefully I can get off to begin in Italy.”
Welshman Matthews took bronze within the males’s class 1 singles on his Paralympic debut in Tokyo and was bitterly disenchanted to lose a really shut quarterfinal on the World Championships to the world No 1 and Paralympic champion Joo Younger Dae from Korea.
“It has motivated me massively over the winter,” admitted the 30-year-old from Aberdare. “I’ve watched the footage from the Worlds with my coach Neil (Robinson) which has been laborious as a result of it was a bitter tablet to swallow. Wanting again at that recreation it was so shut however subsequent time I’ll have him. It was powerful to get him within the quarterfinals however that was due to my seeding so I want to enhance my rating and hopefully see him within the closing subsequent time.
“I’m out to show some extent this yr. It’s massively necessary for seedings on the majors to be extra constant on the smaller tournaments. I’ve all the time completed nicely on the majors however it’s the smaller tournaments the place I want to start out placing gamers away and profitable them to be sincere, beginning in Italy.”
The squad is accomplished by Ashley Facey, competing in his first event since Tokyo, Pathway gamers Theo Bishop and Romain Simon, and self-funded athlete Simon Heaps.