October 2 - There were surprising defeats for men's class five top seeds France and Serbia as the team events got underway at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Lignano today.
Despite getting off to relatively comfortable starts by recording victories against Croatia and Israel respectively, the French and Serbians both came unstuck in their second group matches of the day.
French pair Florien Merrien and Nicolas Savant-Aira went down 3-1 to Turkey's Ali Ozturk and Suleyman Vural, with Savant-Aira registering France's only win in the first game of the match against Vural.
Ozturk was the star for Turkey, defeating both French players in the singles games before he and Vural completed the victory by winning the doubles game, to leave the Turks two-from-two after earlier overcoming Russia.
Serbian duo Zlatko Kesler and Mitar Palikuca came into their second match in confident mood after easily despatching Israel but they came up against an in-form Germany who had kicked off their campaign with a win over Belgium and that good form continued as they pulled off an impressive 3-0 win against the second seeds, leaving Valentin Baus and Selcuk Cetin in prime position to qualify for the semi-finals.
It was a mixed day for Britain's men's teams with Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak recording a win and a defeat in the class seven category, as did Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson in the class ten competition.
London 2012 silver medallist Bayley followed up Karabardak's impressive win over Dutch number two Hans Speek, with a hard-fought win against Jean Paul Montanus, before the British duo took the doubles contest to claim a 3-0 win.
The wheels came off in their second match, though, as they went down by the same scoreline to Ukrainian pair Mykhaylo Popov and Maxym Nikolenko.
With Popov having claimed gold in the singles competition here in Lignano earlier in the week and Nikolenko ranked as the number one player in the world, the Ukrainian's look like a strong bet to take team gold also.
"We played well against [the Netherlands] and they are not easy so to beat them as comfortably as we did was very good," said Karabardak.
"I had a good game against Popov and if I could have taken the second set when I had set points to go two sets up it could have been a bit different but it wasn't to be and he played a bit better than me at crucial times."
The British duo are up against France in their final group game tomorrow and need a win to progress to the next stage.
Daybell and Facey Thompson also face a final do-or-die clash with France tomorrow.
They began their campaign with a tough looking match against top seeds Poland and so it proved as they went down 3-2, despite a gutsy performance against a team that included world number one and reigning Paralympic and European champion Patryk Chojnowski.
But the pair dusted themselves down and knew that they had to win their next match against Germany to retain any hopes of qualification for the semi-finals.
That hope looked to be slipping away as Germany took a 1-0 lead but Daybell and Facey Thompson showed real character by storming back to take the match 3-1.
"I gave myself chances against Chojnowski," said Facey Thompson.
"He's a really good player and the Paralympic champion and I just came out with no fear and tried my best and it was a good match.
"I was disappointed to lose my singles against Germany but I picked myself up for the doubles - it was a big match and we came out strong and won so that was good."
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