England’s Women completed their team campaign at the 2013 Liebherr European Championships with a fine 3-1 win over Croatia to secure third place in the Challenge Division.

The quartet of Joanna Drinkhall, Kelly Sibley, Hannah Hicks and Tin-Tin Ho can feel themselves somewhat unfortunate to have missed out on promotion to the Championship Division having run into the division’s hot-shots Sweden in the crucial semi-final meeting. The Swedes were dominant throughout and comfortably beat Luxembourg 3-0 in the Challenge Final with both sides progressing to the top tier.

England instead had to settle for a third-place finish in Austria after beating Croatia with Joanna Drinkhall picking up two wins. The English no. 1 beat both Petra Petek and Mateja Jeger to help the side record a final victory before the individual events start.

There was also a win for Kelly Sibley over Jeger while Tin-Tin Ho produced a comeback from 2-0 down against European Youth Championships Junior Girl’s silver medalist, Lea Rakovac, to get to 2-2, only to lose out in the final end.

Women’s Challenge Division:
3rd/4th Play-Off
England 3-1 Croatia
Joanna Drinkhall (164) bt Petra Petek (387) 3-0 (11-7, 11-3, 11-9)
Kelly Sibley (213) bt Mateja Jeger (229) 3-1 (11-6, 13-11, 13-15, 11-8)
Lea Rakovac (178) bt Tin-Tin Ho (410) 3-2 (12-10, 11-6, 8-11, 5-11, 11-3)
Joanna Drinkhall (164) bt Mateja Jeger (229) 3-1 (11-7, 11-6, 11-13, 11-7)

Eighteen-year-old Sam Walker’s brilliant double secured 19th place for England at the European Championships following a 3-2 win against Serbia.

Walker’s double triumph combined with Andrew Baggaley’s win made sure the English men finished the team event on a positive note despite not earning promotion from the division.

Against Serbia it was Daniel Reed who was first to the table for England and he only just missed out on an upset against Zolt Pete after failing to convert a match point in the final end.

The 23-year-old had led 2-1 but was pegged back in the fourth before finding himself 7-2 down in the decider. However, the player from Hutton Rudby fought back to earn a match point opportunity at 10-9. Unfortunately he was unable to take it as Pete survived the scare to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.

It was better news next as Sam Walker picked up his first win at the European Championships with a fine 315 world ranking place upset against Marko Jevtovic. The 18-year-old raced into a 2-0 lead but was troubled as Jevtovic came back to level in the fourth. However, Walker held his nerve to show mettle beyond his years and earned a deserved first win.

One-all soon became 2-1 for England as Andrew Baggaley once again utilised his number three role to earn a comfortable victory. The 30-year-old cruised past Bojan Crepulja 3-0 to put England in front.

However, the fixture would be forced into its decisive encounter as Reed was unable to beat Jevtovic in the fourth rubber meaning that the result came down to a clash between Zolt Pete and Sam Walker.

Once again Walker was on top form to record his second big upset of the match as he came from 2-1 behind to beat the world no. 139 and seal England’s victory.

Men’s Challenge Division:
19-20th Places
England 3-2 Serbia
Zolt Pete (139) bt Daniel Reed (228) 3-2 (11-4, 5-11, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10)
Sam Walker (430) bt Marko Jevtovic (115) 3-2 (11-8, 11-2, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8)
Andrew Baggaley (153) bt Bojan Crepulja (351) 3-0 (11-9, 11-6, 11-6)
Marko Jevtovic (115) bt Daniel Reed (228) 3-1 (12-10, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7)
Sam Walker (430) bt Zolt Pete (139) 3-2 (6-11, 14-12, 11-13, 11-8, 11-8)

See also:
Friday report – Men’s dramatic 3-2 victory against Turkey
Saturday report – Women triumphant but Men fall short
Sunday report – Defeats halt England progress in team events

Written by Russell Moore (October 7, 2013)