Colin Judge and Tom Davis, two of Ireland’s fastest developing para table tennis stars returned recently from the Cote d’Azur Open in France, with some big performances and big results under their belt.
Davis, competing in the Class 10 Para classification, recorded a win in the singles event group stage over French player Grasset in straight sets. Davis went into the event at World Rank 31 and had Daybell of Great Britain and Glazov in Russia as the seeds in his group, Daybell is WR: 7 and Glazov WR: 14, so a tough ask for the Donic player. He pushed Glazov all the way and had chances, but eventually lost 1:3, followed by a straight sets loss to Daybell.
In the Team Event, Davis first faced Class 9 opponent Nozdrunov who is World Ranked 3 in this class, a class which many observers feel is Davis’ true class. Tom played fantastic table tennis, dismantling his opponent in straight sets – a significant victory for the always improving Irish junior international. He followed this up with two wins against Brazilian opposition and a win over Great Britain’s Facey-Thompson. He will take significant positives from this event as he becomes more experienced on the international stage – watch this space for big progress in 2015 as Tom strives towards Rio 2016 qualification.
Judge has been threatening a breakthrough all season as he slowly has moved up the ranking list without ever recording that big win against a top 10 player. He has invested significant time and energy into his training and that all came to fruition at the French Open. He qualified through his group despite a tough 0:3 loss to Lamirault, the recent World Champion and current World Number 1, gaining a win over the Swiss player Verzino to progress. In the Quarter Final stage, he faced World Ranked 7 Molliens of France, and at one stage had a 2:1 sets lead and was looking to cause a huge shock. Molliens recovered however and eventually progressed in a 5 set thriller, where home advantage and home support definitely counted – all four semi-finalists were France internationals.
Judge had to wait for that shock result but it came in a fashion that not even his most optimistic supported could have predicted. Going into the team event, he again faced Lamirault, who has been dominant at this level for a number of years and has a 2012 London Games medal in his collection. Judge performed heroically, racing into a 2:0 lead before being drawn back to 2:2 in a match that attracted huge interest in the hall. Judge showed huge composure to drive home in the last set for a massive breakthrough victory over the World Number 1, claiming the last set 11-8. This win sparked a flurry of wins, with Judge claiming 7 of 8 in the Team event, also defeating Bedos(WR:25), Michaud(WR:38), Barukh(WR:40), Nigri(WR:68) and Nazirov(WR:48) and another unranked Russian. Post event, Judge was understandably elated as his international season closes off for 2014:
“I am really happy with my performance in the French Open this week! I missed out on the medals but I beat the world number one!! My best international result ever. I also got some other great wins throughout the competition. Delighted that all my hard work has paid off. Can’t wait to play more competitions again next year. Thank you all so much for the support!”
November World Rankings have yet to be published, but Judge now should be just inside the top 40 from a starting position of 53 – a huge jump and on a huge confidence boost ahead of 2015, while Davis should also see a bump in his rankings into the top 30 ahead of pre-Paralympic Games qualification year.