By Gary Anderson

September 30 - Rob Davies defeated compatriot and mentor Paul Davies in Lignano to take European goldAn historic day in Lignano at the European Para Table Tennis Championships saw Welsh duo and great friends Paul Davies and Rob Davies become the first players to contest an all-British final at a major event.

It was Rob, from Brecon, who prevailed after an impressive performance in the class one final saw him take the title 3-0 against his compatriot.

The 29-year-old came into the final following a fantastic display in his semi-final match against Paralympic champion and world number one Holger Nikelis which saw him despatch the German with ease 3-0 earlier in the day.

Paul made it through to the decider after overcoming home favourite Andrea Borgato three sets to two in a titanic battle, which seen the man from North Cornelly save match points in the fourth set.

"It was very hard to play Paul in the final - he was the person who first trained me so it was a bit emotional to be honest but I'm glad we both got there," said Rob.

"To have to beat him in the final was not a nice feeling but I'm really happy and hopefully Paul and me can take it through now to the team event and get gold for us both.

"It feels amazing to be European champion although it hasn't really sunk in yet.

"I've beaten all the guys who are ranked above me now this year so I'm very proud and pleased - my family are going to go mad back at home."

London 2012 bronze medal winner Paul Davies says his teammate Rob deserved his European title win in LignanoLondon 2012 bronze medal winner Paul Davies says his teammate Rob deserved his European title win in Lignano

London 2012 bronze medallist Paul was understandably disappointed to lose out on a European title, but his disappointment was tempered by the fact that he lost out to his great friend and teammate Rob, whom he introduced to the game and has mentored.

"I said before this tournament if anyone deserved it Rob did - it was me that got him involved in table tennis and he's worked hard," he said.

"He had a big shock in London as we all expected him to do better but he's gone home and reflected on how he played there and he's come here and he's annihilated everybody.

"If I had to lose to anybody it would be Rob Davies and the better man won today."

Meanwhile, in the men's class seven category, London 2012 silver medallist Will Bayley appeared to run out of steam in the final after a tough schedule saw him play four matches on the day.

Bayley, who was defending his European title, set up a semi-final clash with world number one Maxym Nikolenko after cruising passed Belgium's Ben Despineux and Thorsten Schwinn of Germany, winning 3-0 in both matches, before another fine display saw the man from Tunbridge Wells secure a place in the final with a 3-1 win against the Ukrainian.

But Nikolenko's teammate and Paralympic bronze medallist Mykhaylo Popov ended Bayley's dreams of winning back-to-back European crowns as the former world number one emerged on the right side of a 3-1 scoreline, despite losing the first set.

"It was hard to play the final so soon afterwards as I've played lots of matches today and I was quite tired but Popov played really well and he deserved to win so no excuses," said Bayley.

"I was flying at the start and I don't know what went wrong really.

"He knew he had to go for it in the last three sets and everything he hit was going on the table.

"He hit some great balls to be fair.

"That's table tennis."

Norway's Tommy Urhaug retained his class five European title in LignanoNorway's Tommy Urhaug retained his class five European title in Lignano

There were also men's European titles for London 2012 champion Tommy Urhaug of Norway in class five, while Germany's Thomas Schmidberger secured the class three crown and Turkey's Abdullah Ozturk took class four honours.

Paralympic champion Peter Palos of Hungary surprisingly lost out to Turkey's Zabit Caglayan in the class 11 final while Rafael Czuper of Poland took class two honours, and Dane Peter Rozemeier and Russia's Yuriy Shchepansky took class six and class nine golds respectively.

The women's competitions saw three returning champions make it two-in-a-row as Sweden's Paralympic champion Ann-Carin Ahlqvist prevailed in the class three event, Thu Kamkasomphu of France took class eight honours again and Turkey's Nesilhan Kavas held on to her class nine crown.

Two players went one better than they did in Split two years ago by claiming European gold as Serbia's Borislava Peric-Rankovic took class four/five honours against Sandra Mikolaschek of Germany by three sets to one while Umran Ertis secured the class 10 title following a straight sets win over compatriot Hilal Turkkan.

Thu Kamkasomphu of France proved the best of the rest again in the women's class eight competitionThu Kamkasomphu of France proved the best of the rest again in the women's class eight competition

Victoriia Safonova of the Ukraine followed up her impressive semi-final performance in despatching London 2012 and reigning European champion Kelly Van Zon of the Netherlands by overcoming Russian Yulia Ovsyanikova in the class seven final while Croatia's Sandra Paovic claimed her first European title in the class six category, defeating reigning Paralympic champion Raisa Chebanika of Russia.

Chebanika's teammate Nadezda Pushpasheva upset the home crowd by taking class one/two honours against Clara Podda while the class 11 crown went to the Ukraine's Natalya Kosmina who overcame Dorota Nowacka of Poland in straight sets.

The team events in Lignano are due to begin on Wednesday (October 2).

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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