Originally published by SportsByte on January 30th 2013.
England women’s table tennis coach Alan Cooke said his side would learn from their straight-sets loss to a Spain team he labelled “world-class”.
The Joola European Championships Qualification defeat at Gateshead Leisure Centre saw Joanna Parker, Hannah Hicks and Kelly Sibley comprehensively beaten 3-0 by a supreme Spanish side.
Olympians Parker – ranked 130th in the world – and Sibley – 205th – played the 75th seed Sara Ramirez and 137th seed Galia Dvorak respectively. Hicks (534) had a particularly tough challenge, facing the world number eight and European number one Yanfei Shen.
Cooke, though, insisted that facing players of that level will be of benefit to England.
“Every team that they’re playing in this league is virtually a world-class team, but that’s great experience for our players to come and play against these players.
“It’s a different pressure when you’re playing players that are all ranked higher than us.
“We know that they can play table tennis to a high level but it gives us a chance without too much pressure to go in there and see what we need to do to try and compete more consistently at this level,” Cooke added.
Hicks was comfortably beaten 5-11, 3-11, 3-11 by Shen in the second match but was positive after the match, saying: “It was a little bit daunting [facing Shen] but I’ve got nothing to lose and I just wanted to take the experience from it and learn as much as I can from it.”
England showed plenty of potential throughout the fixture but were outclassed by the superior Spaniards at times.
Parker put in a gallant display and did come back from 2-0 down to level the scores but was edged out by Ramirez over the five games, losing 10-12, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11.
In the final game, Kelly Sibley fought right to the end but was eventually overpowered by an impressive Dvorak over four games (15-17, 11-9, 8-11, 7-11).
England are now bottom of their qualifying group having lost all four of their matches, but the team are staying positive according to Hicks: “We take every match as it comes, try and play our best and try and deliver.”