Pickard defends ladies’ singles title

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Fliss Pickard successfully defended her Open Ladies’ Standing singles title at the British Para Table Tennis Michael Hawksworth National Championships in Grantham this weekend.

The Burnley ace was unbeaten in the round-robin Open Ladies’ Standing singles, but Grace Williams showed her improvement by taking the third set in their match and is one to watch for the future.

“I feel I played well in parts and not so well in others,” said Pickard, “but I’m happy to get through.

“I think mentally for me there is a massive difference this year – knowing how to win even when times are tough, and that was really noticeable this tournament.

“Having young players improving all the time has been brilliant and pushed me further.

“I’ve got that motivation in training as well as internationally and to have that competition from the up and coming girls is just what you want.”

Welsh champion Josh Stacey dominated the Championships, taking the Open Standing Singles title, the Open Standing Doubles title with Billy Shilton and the men’s class 9 title.

Liverpool’s Jack Hunter-Spivey also won his sixth Open Wheelchair singles title.

Stacey came through a great battle against men’s class 10 champion Kim Daybell in the semi-final, edging the match 11-9 in the fifth after Daybell had fought back from 2-0 down.

He started well in the final but Aaron McKibbin levelled the match at 1-1 before 19 year old Stacey completed a 3-1 win.

The 19-year-old from Cardiff said: “It is massive to be recognised as one of the best players in Britain so to be regarded as one of the best in the Open category as well is great.”

Stacey and Shilton beat McKibbin and Ross Wilson 3-0 in the doubles final.

Hunter-Spivey was pushed hard in the Open Wheelchair final by 19 year old Megan Shackleton, who took a 1-0 lead and fought back again to level at 2-2, only to lose the final set.